Monday, May 27, 2024  |



Jessie Vargas is dropping sparring partners

Fighters Network

WBO welterweight titleholder Jessie Vargas says he has knocked down “a handful” of sparring partners in training camp ahead of his Nov. 5 showdown with Manny Pacquiao, and says he’s planning to do the same to Pacquiao.

Vargas (27-1, 10 knockouts) is in his second fight under trainer Dewey Cooper and will make the first defense of the vacant title he won in March when he stopped previously unbeaten U.S. Olympian Sadam Ali. The fight with Pacquiao, which takes place at the Thomas & Mack Center in his hometown of Las Vegas, will be Vargas’ biggest spotlight to date.

Never in any training camps have I taken down as many sparring partners as I have in this camp and that says a lot,” says Vargas, 27, who adds that they’re “pushing me to my limits too.”

I’m dropping sparring partners that Floyd Mayweather used in his camps. If Manny thought that Floyd was strong, I can only imagine what he thinks when I land a clean shot to the chin.

Vargas will be Pacquiao’s first opponent since the latter announced a brief retirement after his victory over Timothy Bradley Jr. in April, which took place shortly before he was voted to one of the 12 senatorial seats up for grabs in his native Philippines. Vargas is 10 years Pacquiao’s junior and his only loss came to Bradley by decision in June of 2015. Pacquiao is currently training in Manila nearby the Senate in the Philippines, where he works during the day and trains in the evenings.

“I think that he’s in very good shape for a 37-year-old. He’s still performing as a champion, as a fighter that is top caliber in this sport,” said Vargas of Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs) when asked how much he thinks the eight-division champion has left.

Cooper shared a similar sentiment, saying, “Manny looked terrific in his last outing. Therefore we expect the best version of Pacquiao.”

Vargas downplayed criticism of the fight, which is being independently produced and distributed by Top Rank Promotions after not being picked up by HBO Pay-Per-View. This was due to its proximity to the Nov. 19 pay-per-view card headlined by the light heavyweight bout between IBF/WBA/WBO titleholder Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward, according to an ESPN report.

The Vargas-Pacquiao card will also feature WBO junior featherweight beltholder Nonito Donaire against Jessie Magdaleno, plus WBO featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez versus Hiroshige Osawa. The rematch between Zou Shiming and Prasitsak Papoem is expected to be contested for the vacant WBO flyweight title.

Vargas argues that his and Pacquiao’s styles will make the fight worth the fans’ buck.

You’ll get negativity anywhere and everywhere but thankfully people will tune in November 5. This isn’t a Hollywood show where everything’s fake. Fighters are moving around trying not to get hit. We’re here to show who is the toughest fighter, who is the true warrior,” said Vargas.

“All the respect is thrown out the window as fighters. As a person, you keep that respect, no matter what. But inside the ring, the only thing I’m focused on is beating Manny Pacquiao, knocking him out, making a statement in beating him.”

For Vargas, a win would make his name as a star in the sport, an opportunity he’s been waiting for since he first started boxing.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been wanting to face a fighter known as the best. That way I can prove that I am the best after beating that fighter. In this era, it’s Manny Pacquiao and the way it would change my life is it would be a dream come true,” said Vargas.

“It would be such confirmation to me and my family and to the boxing fans too that there’s a new star in boxing with a different image. My popularity would be very different.”

Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to THE RING magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @RyanSongalia.

Struggling to locate a copy of RING magazine? Try here or…



You can subscribe to the print and digital editions of RING magazine by clicking the banner or here. You can also order the current issue, which is on newsstands, or back issues from our subscribe page. On the cover this month: Sugar Ray Leonard