Pacquiao Vargas – Here we go again. It’s the same old story. When are the fanboy media members going to stop fawning over trainer Freddie Roach? I guess they think attending the gym where Roach trains the 37-year-old former eight division title holder Manny Pacquiao 58-6-2 (38) makes them feel as if they’re an insider. They rush to get a quote from Freddie, who’s been wrong predicting how Pacquiao will perform in his upcoming bouts for years, and then run with it as if this time he’ll be correct.
After not fighting in seven months and scoring a pretty convincing decision over Timothy Bradley in their rubber match, Manny is close to wrapping up what has supposedly been a stellar camp for his upcoming challenge of WBO welterweight title holder Jessie Vargas 27-1 (10). You know, like his previous training camps before his last few fights, or so we were told.
“He has been very aggressive in his sparring – throwing combinations and he seems to be getting back to the old Manny – really quick combinations, in and out, flurries and very hard punching,” said Roach.
We heard that before Manny’s last three bouts over the last 24 months versus Chris Algieri, Floyd Mayweather, and Timothy Bradley III. Yes, Manny punched Algieri all over the ring but Chris is a journeyman. Mayweather, who is truly elite, was never close to losing and it wasn’t among Floyd’s three hardest bouts. And you’d think after fighting Bradley twice before – he’d finally crack his code in their third fight. However, before all three bouts Roach lectured the media how we’d see the vintage Pacquiao who demoralized Miguel Cotto back in 2009. But that obviously didn’t come to fruition.
“He has been hurting me while on the mitts. My shoulder is a little messed up. Buboy’s hand and shoulders are messed up. We’ll hang in there …but holding the mitts for Manny is not the most fun thing in the world to do – it’s hard, hard work. If he carries that over into the fight I think he will knock somebody out. He hasn’t knocked out any 147-pounders in a while but again they are much bigger guys and they can take better shots, but I feel that with the combinations and the way he has been training he has been very close to knocking guys out in the gym and so forth. I am very impressed with him in the gym workouts so far.”
Roach loves bringing up the old Manny, who is one month shy of turning 38. He tells of how Pacquiao is explosive again and how hard he’s punching in the gym. Then during the post-fight interview or press conference, he blames the opponent as to why Manny didn’t score the highlight knockout. Remember; Algieri was really tough and fought to survive, Mayweather wouldn’t engage and just ran, and Bradley is a survivor and after three bouts against Manny – knows when and when not to mix it up with him.
Granted, it’s been the same pre-fight hype for this fight with Vargas that we’re used to from Freddie, but this time he may be right. This time Manny just might score the hoped for stoppage. And the reasons for that are legitimate, pertaining to both fighter’s mindsets and styles. For instance, Pacquiao always looks to attack and force the action. He attacks in spurts and is not that hard to hit on the way in. Usually his aggression and punching in waves overwhelms his opponents to the point to where they look to break off the exchanges. But I don’t think Vargas will react that way.
Jessie is pretty upright and doesn’t move too much after he punches – so he’ll be there for Pacquiao’s leads and also when he counters. Jessie doesn’t move his head much and he’ll stand his ground and attempt to fight Manny. However, Vargas is pretty unimaginative offensively and although he’s not slow, he’s not the fastest fighter around either. It’s easy to envision that after Manny tags him a few times cleanly, Jessie won’t even attempt to use his pronounced height and reach advantage. In other words he’ll fight small and that will allow Pacquiao to get off better from a range which best suits him.
Pacquiao is an 8-1 favorite for good reason. The odds makers didn’t have to dig deep to conclude Vargas has a puncher’s mindset, without the requisite guns to complete the task at hand. And based on Vargas’ words and mannerisms, I get the sense that when he gets into the ring with Pacquiao, he’s going to see himself as the alpha male based on his edge in physicality. This should make for an exciting fight – but also one in which Pacquiao will be able to hit Vargas with a lot of the big shots he’ll be cutting loose with. And since I don’t expect Vargas to crumble immediately, he’ll be fighting back with the mindset that he’s only one good right hand away from doing what Juan Manuel Marquez did to Manny almost four years ago – and that’s put him to sleep. This should keep the fight action-packed and fan friendly.
Pacquiao is a charitable guy and wants to continue building houses and buy outboard motors for fishermen in the Philippines. I doubt this fight will do a big PPV number, but it’s really just a set-up for his next bout which will more than likely be against a name opponent and one where he is not the prohibitive favorite. Manny will be fighting to extend his career and the big paydays against Vargas. Therefore, I expect him to really let it all out…that and he has an ideal opponent to do it against. Vargas is perhaps good enough and tough enough to hang around for a while, but not good enough to win and because of his lack of an equalizer in either hand – might succumb to Pacquiao somewhere before the end of the 12th round. Thus, Manny will have won by stoppage for the first time since November of 2009.
Don’t hold your breath, but just maybe this time Roach’s pre-fight hyperbole may truly be an indicator of what is to come this Saturday night between Manny Pacquiao and Jessie Vargas.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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