A world champion is still a world champion, and no way is Manny Pacquiao going to look past Jessie Vargas, who stakes his welterweight title on the line against the Filipino pride two weeks from now at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
The 37-year-old Pacquiao said he prepared hard against Vargas in the same manner he did against any of his past opponents.
And even though he’s busy training and doing his work in the Senate at the same time, the boxing great didn’t remiss in making sure he will be in tip-top shape come the night of Nov. 5 (Nov. 6, Manila time) when he makes his ring return following a brief seven-month retirement.
“Vargas is a world champion, so in no way can I underestimate him. You can never underestimate a boxer who is a champion,” said Pacquiao during a question and answer portion four days upon arriving in the US, the transcript of which were provided to international media, including SPIN.ph
“He (Vargas) is good. I just have to make sure that I am 100 percent ready for the fight.”
Long-time trainer Freddie Roach and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum joined the Filipino southpaw during the 30-minute session.
Vargas, 27, and a native of Los Angeles, carries a ring record of 27-1, with only 10 coming by way of knockouts.
But don’t be deceived by numbers, according to Arum.
Vargas won the WBO version of the 147-lbs. title which Tim Bradley relinquished after opting to fight Pacquiao for a third time, by scoring a ninth round TKO of Sadam Ali last March, an opponent who is a legitimate title contender as per Arum’s standard.
“Sadam Ali is a terrific fighter, he was a member of the US Olympic team, was undefeated, and certainly not a tomato can,” said the 82-year-old promoter. He entered the fight a big favorite and Vargas dominated him and eventually knocked him out.
“I think that victory alone qualifies Vargas for top level of fighters and opponents for Manny.”
And lest be forgotten, Vargas almost knocked the wind out of Bradley in their June 27 title bout last year.
Bradley won the match by unanimous decision but was on the verge of going down in the final seconds of the 12th round when the referee stepped in and signaled the end of the fight after mistakenly thought the 10-second warning was the final bell.
Although Bradley dominated the bout, it was a puzzle what would have been the outcome had the referee not stepped in prematurely.
“The fact that he could put Bradley out on his feet is I think the operative statement,” Arum pointed out.