Can Manny Pacquiao be exciting again?
By Hector Franco
November 4, 2016
LAS VEGAS - This Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Manny Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs) will make his return to the squared circle as he faces WBO welterweight champion, Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs).
The fight, when first announced, was met with much criticism. HBO, who has shown most of Pacquiao’s fights since 2001, passed on the fight. Top Rank was fine with the decision as it allowed them to distribute the pay-per-view (PPV) themselves and not pay a percentage to HBO. Fans were disappointed with the fight as many were once again hoping for a match up with Terence Crawford. Vargas isn’t the opponent fans wanted to see Pacquiao in against, but the 37-year old senator has been more active this year and faced better competition than fellow welterweights such as Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia.
It’s no secret that Pacquiao’s star power has waned in recent years. His last fight with Timothy Bradley sold 400,000 in PPV buys. What’s more alarming than the downslide in his PPV sales is the apathy that fans have regarding Pacquiao. In the past, the fight week leading up to a Pacquiao fight felt like the lead up to a huge event. Now most people don’t know he is fighting this weekend or simply don’t care.
This apathetic view towards Pacquiao could be a result of his fight with Floyd Mayweather. The fight on May 2, 2015 was a financial success, but it was such a critical failure that many fans and pundits feel that it has hurt boxing’s PPV business and popularity. The other side of the coin is that simply put, Pacquiao has not been in exciting fights. The Filipino was once known as the most exciting fighter in the sport. This is not to say that Pacquiao has turned into a boring fighter, but his fights are no longer even contenders for fight of the year honors.
Video Courtesy of Boxing Legends TV
Pacquiao’s last great fight took place in December 2012 against Juan Manuel Marquez. That night, he was knocked out cold in the sixth round. Since then his fights have varied in entertainment. The Bradley fights weren’t bad fights, with the second fight being the most exciting. However, they paled in comparison to his series of fights with the Mexican trio of Barrera, Morales and Marquez. The fight with Mayweather was on the other side of exciting and the fights with Chris Algieri and Brandon Rios were not much more than showcase fights.
Vargas could present Pacquiao with a style that will allow him to put on a performance that reminds fans of the Pacquiao of old. At 37-years of age, it’s questionable if he can still put on the memorable kind of performances of the past. Pacquiao fights in explosive bursts. Those bursts have gotten fewer and far between as he has gotten older. Fans wonder if he still has that same fire. Pacquiao told ESPN that he has something to prove in his fight with Vargas.
The training camp for Pacquiao against Vargas has been one of the busiest of his career. This has always been the norm for the current politician. A camp wouldn’t be normal without some kind of chaos for Pacquiao.
Now as a senator, the only boxer to win titles in eight weight classes can be considered a part-time boxer. If Pacquiao is to continue, boxing fans want to see him against top competition. Along with the competition, Pacquiao needs to remind fans as to why they become so enthralled by him. The Vargas fight is an opportunity for Pacquiao to win another world title. Most importantly, it’s an opportunity to once again prove that when he is at his best he is the most exciting fighter in the sport.
(Featured Photo: AP Photo/Eric Jamison)