Pacquiao Returns From Brief Retirement to Beat Jessie Vargas
Manny Pacquiao looked nothing like a fighter who was coming out of retirement. That’s because Pacquiao was barely ever retired.
Photo Cred // Top Rank
The fighter who called it a career after defeating Timothy Bradley in April announced his comeback in August and returned this past Saturday to defeat Jessie Vargas by unanimous decision.
It was about seven months between the Bradley fight and this one, the kind of gap between bouts that is common for boxers at an elite level. And this year has shown that Pacquiao, who turns 38 in December, remains one of the top welterweights in the sport.
Pacquiao looked good wrapping up his trilogy with Bradley. He cruised against Vargas, taking control in the second half of the fight to pull away on the scorecards. Two judges had it 118-109, or 10 rounds to Pacquiao and two rounds to Vargas, with an additional point deducted from Vargas for the knockdown he suffered in the second. The third judge was watching something completely different. He awarded Vargas five of the first six rounds and had the fight six rounds apiece at the end, giving Pacquiao the edge at 114-113.
The taller Vargas tried to keep Pacquiao at a distance in the opening round, using his jab but also attempting left hook counters when Pacquiao would try to move into closer range. But toward the end of the second round, Vargas kept his left arm out after two jabs and left himself open for Pacquiao’s left cross. Vargas dropped to the canvas.
Pacquiao picked up the pace in the third, finding a home for his left hand. In the fourth, however, Vargas was able to land a handful of rights. That and the sixth round were the only two he won on the 118-109 scorecards.
Pacquiao fights in spurts these days. He’s no longer an offensive dynamo, instead choosing his moments, throwing just 408 punches on the night, according to CompuBox. But he picked the right times and the right places and found success with fast and accurate power shots, going 101 of 212 in that category, landing nearly half of what he threw. He also still had enough foot speed and good defense to make Vargas miss; Vargas was just 104 of 561 overall, a 19 percent connect rate, including 70 of 305 power shots, a 23 percent success rate.
There was none of the fight-changing power that Vargas demonstrated in wobbling Bradley last year or stopping Sadam Ali earlier this year.
Pacquiao didn’t stop Vargas either. He hasn’t finished a fight by knockout or technical knockout since Miguel Cotto in 2009. There are other ways to win, though. And this year Pacquiao has beaten two Top 10 welterweights in Bradley and Vargas. This victory also earned Pacquiao a world title, beginning a third reign at welterweight for a fighter who has held titles in a record eight divisions.
Pacquiao is now 59-6-2 with 38 knockouts. Two great boxers were seated at ringside to watch his fight with Vargas: Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Terence Crawford. Mayweather retired last year, yet there’s been speculation ever since that he might come back for a rematch with Pacquiao and the large payday that would come with it. Crawford is the champion at junior welterweight. Pacquiao said he’d be willing to drop to 140 to challenge him.
Vargas is now 27-2 with 10 KOs. He took the defeat in stride and said he is a young fighter who is still improving. There’s no shame in losing to Manny Pacquiao — even this version of him.
Oscar Valdez Defends Title By Blasting Past Hiroshige Osawa
Oscar Valdez looked like he was loading up on nearly every power punch he threw. He had good reason to.
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Valdez was able to hit Hiroshige Osawa with power more often than he missed. Osawa wasn’t able to land much and didn’t have enough pop to give Valdez concern. Valdez kept hammering away at Osawa en route to a seventh-round technical knockout.
Through three rounds, Valdez had landed 55 of 96 power shots, according to CompuBox, while Osawa was just 8 of 33. Valdez also mixed in more than enough jabs that a feint in the fourth set up what was to come — a left hook lead that dropped Osawa, who stuck his tongue out, got up quickly, nodded his head and told the referee he was OK. Valdez tried to close the show, pouring forth with heavy shots and also adding in a flurry of missed punches in an attempt to convince the referee to step in.
The fight continued. So did the punishment. Valdez hurt Osawa halfway through the seventh round with another left hook, followed him to the ropes and landed some punches that popped Osawa’s head back. The referee moved in and waved the fight off. The end should’ve come soon anyway. By that point, Valdez had landed 191 of 440 punches (43 percent), including 129 of 231 power shots (56 percent), while Osawa was just 35 of 196 in total (18 percent), including 18 of 79 power shots.
Valdez is now 21-0 with 19 KOs. This was his first defense of the vacant world title he won in July. While there are several name featherweights, it’s less likely that he’ll get fights with the likes of Jesus Cuellar, Carl Frampton, Abner Mares, Gary Russell, Leo Santa Cruz and Lee Selby and more likely that those six fighters, all of whom share the same adviser, will instead face off against each other. Two potential fights of interest for Valdez that could happen in 2017, then, are mandatory contender Miguel Marriaga and contender Joseph Diaz Jr.
Osawa is now 30-4-4 with 19 KOs. This was his first defeat since 2009.
Jessie Magdaleno Seizes Belt With Decision Over Nonito Donaire
Nonito Donaire had won world titles in four weight classes. Jessie Magdaleno had never won one and had never fought anyone near Donaire’s level. But when it came time to step up, Magdaleno rose to the occasion with a unanimous decision victory and a title belt around his waist.
Two judges had it 116-112, or eight rounds to four, while a third had it far too wide at 118-110, giving 10 rounds to Magdaleno and seeing just two of them for Donaire. Many watching on television and from ringside had it closer. Donaire believed he had done enough to retain.
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“We definitely won the fight,” Donaire was quoted as saying afterward. “Losing never crossed my mind. I thought I controlled the second half of the fight.”
There is little reason for controversy. It was a close and competitive fight, one in which Magdaleno appeared to have done just enough to come out triumphant.
Donaire used pressure in the early rounds to try to unnerve Magdaleno, but it was pressure that came without a wealth of activity, giving Magdaleno opportunities to throw and land his own shots. A head butt opened up a cut over Magdaleno’s left eye in the fourth. Donaire continued to look for single shots. Magdaleno began to throw with more volume, scoring with more frequency in the eighth and ninth.
Early in the 10th, however, Magdaleno sent out a jab and Donaire countered with a good right hand that hurt Magdaleno. Donaire couldn’t put Magdaleno away. He finished strong in the final three rounds. That wasn’t enough to overcome his deficit on the scorecards.
“I woke up too late,” Donaire said.
Donaire fell to 37-4 with 24 KOs. One loss came very early in his career. Two others came against very good fighters in Guillermo Rigondeaux and Nicholas Walters. He’s nearly 34 now, has fought as a pro for nearly 16 years now, and doesn’t look anywhere near as stellar as he did during his great 2012 campaign. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s too old to belong, nor does this most recent defeat necessarily mean he needs to rebuild. He will, however, need to show much more in his next outing. If he’s fortunate, that next outing will be a rematch with Magdaleno.
Magdaleno moved to 24-0 with 17 KOs. This victory came just three days before his 25th birthday. He’s arrived. Now it’s time to see how long he can stay.
Second Chance at Title Goes Much Better For Zou Shiming
Zou Shiming had beaten Prasitsak Phaprom once before, winning a wide unanimous decision back in November 2014. Nearly two years later, Shiming did it again — and this time the flyweight got a world title as a reward.
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Shiming threw faster, moved better and landed more often, hitting Phaprom with 347 of 778 punches, according to CompuBox, including 243 of 464 power shots, a 52 percent connect rate. Phaprom suffered a second-round knockdown and survived to the final bell. His offense wasn’t effective enough; he was just 107 of 503 on the night. The scorecards read 120-107 (twice) and 119-108.
Shiming, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who also captured a bronze, is now 9-1 with 2 KOS and has added a pro world title to his collection. This was his second chance; he’d lost a unanimous decision to Amnat Ruenroeng in March 2015. Phaprom is now 39-2-2 with 24 KOs. Both of those defeats came against Shiming.