Floyd Mayweather Jr. stopped by to see an old foe, and Manny Pacquiao tried his best to give him a show. With Mayweather watching intently from a ringside seat, Pacquiao dropped Jessie Vargas in the second round and bloodied his face Saturday night on his way to a lopsided decision that gave him a piece of the welterweight title once again.
Pacquiao won on all three ringside scorecards – 118-109, 118-109 114-113 – to take the piece of the title Vargas won in his last fight. The AP scored it 119-109 for Pacquiao.
“Not bad,” Mayweather said, giving Pacquiao a thumbs up after the fight.
It was vintage Pacquiao at times, even though he couldn’t stop Vargas like he desperately wanted to. And with Mayweather at ringside it certainly will stir talk of a second fight between the boxers who went at it last year in the richest fight ever.
That, of course, would depend on Mayweather coming out of retirement and Pacquiao being able to fight while still attending to his duties as a senator in the Philippines. Mayweather did not answer questions about a possible return to the ring shouted at him by writers at ringside.
“I invited him to be here tonight,” Pacquiao said, saying “we’ll see” when asked if the two could meet again.
Pacquiao pressed the fight from the opening bell, trying to score a knockdown. He looked as if he would when he caught Vargas with a straight left that put him on the canvas, but Vargas got up quick and fought the distance.
“I feel I could do more but every round I tried to knock him out,” Pacquiao said.
Just before the bell rang to start the fight, Pacquiao smiled and waved a fist at Mayweather. He clearly wanted to impress Mayweather, who won their first fight easily.
But Pacquiao, who has not knocked out an opponent in seven years, wasn’t going to stop the younger Vargas in his hometown. Vargas had difficulty dealing with Pacquiao’s speed, but was more than willing to trade punches to try and lure him into a brawl.
In the eighth round he succeeded at doing that, hitting Pacquiao with a big right and punching his gloves together as if to tell him to stand and fight. Pacquiao went right back after him and they traded punches before staring at each other when the bell sounded to end the round.
“Fighting Manny Pacquiao is like playing a very fast game of chess,” Vargas said. “You have to be alert at all times, there are a lot of punches coming in. He was very fast and he was very sharp.”
Vargas was cut over the right eye by an accidental clash of heads in the eighth, and blood trickled into his eye but it didn’t seem to be a factor.
The taller Vargas landed some good right hands of his own, but they were infrequent and he rarely followed up on them. Still, they were enough to keep Pacquiao away at times and offset some of his advantage with speed.
“I didn’t want to be careless,” Pacquiao said. “I was very careful to go inside because I know he will counter me.”
Pacquiao was credited with landing 147 of 409 punches to 104 of 562 for Vargas. Pacquiao also was given a 101-70 advantage in power punches.
Mayweather took a ringside seat alongside his daughter to watch the man who helped make him untold millions when they fought in 2015. Mayweather won that fight, and Pacquiao’s performance was largely panned, though he claimed to have an injured shoulder.
Pacquiao, fighting in his 22nd title fight in a pro career that stretches back to 1995, trained at night in the Philippines in the weeks leading up to the fight so he could tend to his day job as a newly elected senator. With the senate out of session, he was back in a more familiar place, with a crowd of some 16,132 nearly filling the UNLV campus arena to watch him take on Vargas, who was in only his second title bout.
Pacquiao, who earned a reported $100 million to fight Mayweather in the richest fight ever, was guaranteed $4 million plus a percentage of the revenue of the fight. Vargas got $2.8 million.
Pacquiao improved to 59-6-2, while Vargas fell to 27-2.