LAS VEGAS — Manny Pacquiao produced a crowd-pleasing but imperfect display to win the WBO welterweight title on Saturday night, taking the belt from Jessie Vargas thanks to a unanimous points decision at the Thomas and Mack Center.
Pacquiao won 114-113 on one judge’s scorecard, and by a runaway margin of 118-109 on the other two.
With both men committed to offense, a scrappy but entertaining brawl ensued, but Pacquiao’s superior hand and foot speed meant he always looked likely to come out on top. The Filipino superstar claimed the only knockdown, decking Vargas with a hard, straight left hand in the second round.
With Floyd Mayweather having arrived to sit ringside around 15 minutes before the main event, rumors immediately began to circulate that a repeat of the much-hyped 2015 contest between boxing’s two biggest names was in the works.
Mayweather was coy on the matter and when asked why he was in attendance by ESPN, he said only that he wanted to bring his daughter to the event.
Pacquiao admitted after the fight that he had invited Mayweather to attend on Saturday night, “as my guest."
Yet his appearance, combined with Pacquiao taking care of business in the ring, will likely spark some interest in a rematch, despite how the original fight was a miserable, expensive and demoralizing snoozer.
Asked about the potential of taking on Mayweather again, Pacquiao said: "I don’t know — whoever the people want me to fight. I am not picking an opponent. Whoever my promoter gives me I will fight."
Vargas was occasionally able to catch Pacquiao on the break, but not with enough regularity to stop the repeated flurries aimed in his direction.
Pacquiao took control of the bout at the midway stage and pulled away towards the end, despite the game efforts of Vargas to stay in the fight and cling onto his belt.
Soon to turn 38 years old, Pacquiao’s physical powers had been questioned by many, especially with large chunks of his time taken up by his political career in the Philippines. This will not have silenced all the doubters, but by the same token he showed he is far from spent.
What's next for Pacquiao remains to be seen but one thing is for certain, thanks to Mayweather showing up in the audience, boxing has plenty to talk about.