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Vargas ready to punish Pacquiao

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By Chris Williams: WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs) feels well prepared for his maiden title defense against Filipino star Manny Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs) this Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Vargas is ready to catch Pacquiao with hooks no matter which side he attacks from.

Vargas notes that Pacquiao likes to attack using angles, and he plans on nailing him with shots if he comes in from the left or right on his attack runs. Pacquiao had a hard time getting in close enough to Floyd Mayweather Jr. last year to land shots against him in their disappointing ‘Fight of the Century.’

It wasn’t disappointing because of Mayweather. It was disappointing because of Pacquiao having inadequate boxing skills and a poor game plan to attack Mayweather. You’ve got to blame Pacquiao for being so lost in that fight, and causing it to be a stinker. It didn’t help that Pacquiao came into the fight with a shoulder injury that many boxing fans didn’t know about.

If Pacquiao loses to Vargas on Saturday, I doubt that it’ll be news that will put a smile on his promoter Bob Arum’s face. He’s all excited about a potential fight in the future between Pacquiao and WBC/WBO light welterweight champion Terence Crawford. If Pacquiao loses to Vargas, a fight between Pacquiao and Crawford will be meaningless. It won’t sell, because Pacquiao will have unfinished business with Vargas. You can’t put Vargas in with Crawford on pay-per-view, because that’s not a fight that will well either.

“We’re looking stronger, faster, we’ve over-exceeded every aspect in training when it comes to speed, power, intelligence in the ring, ring savvy,” said Vargas at today’s final press conference. “We have a strong hook; we have a strong right, either way. If he wants to sneak over to the right we’ll catch him there, if he wants to sneak over to the left we’ll get him there. So we’re ready. I can’t be any more ready than this.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if Vargas does catch Pacquiao with a big hook while coming in. Vargas has had lots of time to study video of Pacquiao’s recent fights. He obviously knows exactly how he attacks. If Pacquiao is going to attack Vargas with his old style, then he’s going to need to walk through some head shots for him to get close enough to land. If you’ve ever watched Vargas fight before, he tends to tie up his shorter opponents when they get in close on him. He spoils when he’s facing shorter fighters than himself that get within punching range.

“I thought I wouldn’t see you again, but now I’m here to continue my journey and all I can say for this fight is I respect Vargas and his team, how dedicated they are,” said Pacquiao. “I feel what he’s feeling right now because I’ve been there when I was 27 years old, 28 years old and how hungry I was. What I’m thinking when I prepared for this fight was I have to make sure I’m in condition, work hard even though I’m working in the office. It’s not easy being a senator working in the office and being a boxer while you’re training. It’s hard, but it’s a good thing when you are happy and enjoying it.”

I hope for Pacquiao’s sake his trainer Freddie Roach has a better game plan than he did for his 2012 fight against Juan Manuel Marquez. I still remember Roach saying repeatedly that he wanted Pacquiao to fight like he was 25 again. Roach wanted pure aggression from Pacquiao, but the mindless aggression. It was the wrong game plan for the wrong opponent.

Pacquiao was facing a counter puncher who had gotten the better of him in their three prior fights, but had been robbed in all of those fights in the minds of many boxing fans. If Pacquiao is just going to rush Vargas on Saturday night, then we could see a similar knockout occur with Pacquiao getting planted onto the canvas in a heap. I’ll be here to say ‘I told you so.’ Pacquiao should have dumped Roach after that loss and found someone that could teach him how to box from the ground up. He needed to have his entire game retooled to make him fight in a smarter way. That didn’t happen though. Pacquiao is still with Roach, and I think it might end badly for him on Saturday night when he gets inside the ring with Vargas.

“I had a great training camp. This has been my best to date. I’m very happy with my team; they’re bringing out the best in me. I said before my last fight and we’re planning on outdoing that,” said Vargas.

Vargas is on the cusp of stardom. All he needs to do is KO Pacquiao, take his scalp, and move forward as Top Rank’s new star. Arum thought it was going to be Crawford as the new Top Rank stable star, but it might wind up being Vargas. That would be funny.

If Vargas spoils Arum’s plans for a Pacquiao vs. Crawford fight, it’s going to be interesting to see if he can be the one who turns into a star rather than Crawford. Of course, Vargas won’t become a star unless Arum is able to match him against good fighters that boxing fans care about rather than keeping him locked tight in fighting on his Top Rank stable fighters. Vargas has to be able to fight the big names not with Top Rank.

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