By Matt Andrzejewski
Will Pacquiao Be Upset?
Manny Pacquiao returns to the ring on Saturday night to face WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas. Though Pacquiao is heavily favored, Vargas stands a much better chance of springing an upset than the odds or most experts feel at the moment.
There are a few factors that could ultimately lead to the upset. First, just how motivated is Pacquiao for this fight? He was recently elected to the Philippines Senate and has been taking his new role very seriously. Remember, part of the reason he was going to retire following his third fight with Timothy Bradley in April was due to the potential increase in his workload if he won election.
Further, Pacquiao is not facing a big name in the sport in Vargas. The fight is not getting as much hype as Pacquiao’s last fight with Bradley and obviously nowhere near the hype of the Mayweather fight. So realistically how motivated is Pacquiao going into Saturday night?
Vargas is a very accomplished fighter who has some momentum currently going in his career. He is confident coming off a career best performance in stopping the previously undefeated Sadam Ali his last time out. Though he lost the fight before that to the aforementioned Bradley, Vargas nearly had Bradley stopped in the 12th and final round. The final opportunity to go for the finish of Bradley was taken away due to a referee’s error. In his mind, Vargas feels he would have finished Bradley if not for that error and does not feel he should have lost.
A lot of boxing experts are judging Vargas based on some of his earlier fights in his career. Though he prevailed, he did not always look good. But Vargas has improved a lot and is starting to put it together. If Pacquiao’s mindset is not all there, Vargas has the potential to spring a major upset.
I will admit that I miss the days when Don King produced pay-per-view cards that showcased strong, deep undercards. By and large of late, pay-per-view undercards lack depth and do not provide value for the fans who purchase the event. I have been very critical about several recent pay-per-view undercards. But when a solid one is produced, we need to give the promoter credit. Top Rank has in my opinion put together a very strong undercard this Saturday night that provides fans with the kind of value they should get when they purchase pay-per-view.
The main undercard bout is a super bantamweight title fight between Nonito Donaire and Jessie Magdaleno. This fight is about as even on paper as we can get in the sport. Donaire is a little past his prime from the days when he was a pound-for-pound entrant but he’s still a top fighter at super bantamweight. His power is still there and he will likely test the chin of the young Magdaleno. He must win to set up some future big money bouts.
Magdaleno is a top prospect and looking to graduate to the top fighter in his weight class. He has been moved relatively carefully in his career and now takes a big leap up in class. He is quicker than Donaire and possesses faster hands. Magdaleno should be able to out-quick Donaire but questions remain about his chin. He also vastly falls short in experience and quality of opposition faced compared to Donaire. This is a very interesting fight that should be both competitive and entertaining.
Oscar Valdez puts his featherweight title on the line against Japanese challenger Hiroshige Osawa. Valdez looks to be a star in the making. He has very fast hands and is a very heavy handed puncher. An accomplished amateur, he has the pedigree to be something really special in this sport. In Osawa, Valdez faces probably his toughest test as a pro. Osawa has not lost since moving from lightweight to featherweight seven years ago.
In the opening bout of the pay-per-view card, Zou Shiming makes his second attempt at a world title when he faces Prasitsak Phaprom. This is a rematch of a fight that Shiming won by decision two years ago. Their first fight was not bad though pretty much controlled by Shiming. Phaprom has scored 12 consecutive knockout wins since the loss and is very confident coming into the rematch. Shiming, for his part, wants to make a statement on a big stage in the United States.
I really like the job Top Rank did with the undercard on Saturday night and hope this trend continues in the sport. All three fights on the pay-per-view portion of the card have their own intrigue. The bouts should provide tremendous value to the fans that purchase the event.
Boxing is Back with a Flourish
After a very quiet month of October, boxing is back in full swing starting the first week of November. In addition to the big pay-per-view card on Saturday, there are several interesting televised matchups taking place on Friday.
ShoBox returns on Friday night with a very interesting card headlined by Taras Shelestyuk. He is another Eastern European prospect who could soon be making a lot of noise. With an extensive amateur background, Shelestyuk just appears so smooth in the ring when watching him fight. Everything he does seems to come naturally. Undefeated cruiserweights Stivens Bujaj and Constantin Bejenaru appear in another bout on the card and this should be entertaining as well as competitive.
Also on Friday, Top Rank is running a show on UniMas. The card is headlined by super featherweights Casey Ramos and Andy Vences. Both fighters are undefeated but not really considered top prospects. This is a very good job of matchmaking as they are very evenly matched and should provide for a solid televised fight. The winner takes a big step forward.
Another card on Friday will be run by Golden Boy at the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles and streamed live online. Manuel Avila headlines as he faces journeyman Jose Ramirez. Avila is a favorite of mine as he seems to get better and better each time out. This is a stay busy fight for him but we should be seeing him in a title fight in 2017. Also on this card is 22-year-old featherweight prospect Emilio Sanchez. He is also someone I feel could have a bright future.
It was a long month of October but this weekend’s action should set up what should be a busy fight schedule from here to the end of the year.