Pacquiao's retirement, at the age of 37, wasn't hugely unexpected, and neither was his return to the ring. Though some did expect that he would be away from the ring for a bit longer than a meagre 7 months. At his age it's hard to say just what he has left, but he was dominant last time when he easily defeat Bradly, dropping the American twice and winning 116-110 on all 3 cards. Despite his age he is still one of the best fighters on the planet with under-rated skills, explosive power and speed and the experience that most other fights can only dream of.
Although not as destructive as he was in years gone by, at lower weights, Pacquiao is still a real handful for anyone and losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr and Juan Manuel Marquez in recent years don't change that. Especially not when you consider his relatively recent wins against the likes of Bradley, Brandon Rios and Chris Algieri, all of whom posed different stylistic questions of Pacquiao.
With his legacy safely sealed the Filipino is no longer fighting for his place in history. He's assured a place in the hall of fame, having won titles from Flyweight to Light Middleweight, he's a national treasure of the Philippines and is a fighter who is now achieving things out of the ring, having become a senator in his homeland. With his off the ball there is a chance we will see Pacquaio be a shadow of the fighter who beat Bradley with ease, alternatively there is a chance that Pacquiao, fighting for himself, will be back to the fighter he once was knowing there is no pressure to fight for others. If we see Pacquiao return to being the destructive, aggressive, monster he once was then we might well see him looking unbeatable, as he looked years ago.
At the age of 27 Vargas is 10 years younger than Pacquiao and is in his physical pomp. That was seen clearly last time out when he scored his best stoppage win, stopping the previously unbeaten and highly touted Sadam Ali in 9 rounds. In his bout before that he came close to scoring an incredibly late stoppage against Tom Bradley, in a competitive losing effort. The loss to Bradley has been Vargas's only defeat in 28 bouts, over a career that started back in September 2008.
In the ring Vargas has been accused of being boxing, and early in his career he was certainly not an exciting fighter to watch. He was a busy fighter, who let his hands go on a frequent basis, but lacked power and rarely sat down on his shots. That lack of power lead to 10 straight decision wins between September 2011 and his 2015 loss to Bradley and led many to turn away from his bouts, however he has began sitting on punches more recent and has grown into a relatively fun fighter who a full fledged Welterweight and will tower over Pacquiao and have a clear reach advantage.
Whilst not regarded as a major star Vargas has actually been notching solid wins in recent years, even if some were controversial. Those wins include victories over the likes of Josesito Lopez, Steve Forbes, Aaron Martinez, Wale Omotoso, Khabib Allakhverdiev, Anton Novikov, Antonio DeMarco and Sadam Ali. Notably he has been proving himself against unbeaten fighters through his career, with 7 wins over unbeaten fighters including Ali (22-0), Novikov (29-0), Allakhverdiev (19-0) and Omotoso (23-0).
Up against Pacquiao we will see Vargas being forced to answer some serious questions. Will he be able to take Pacquiao's power, will he be able to establish his tempo and will he manage to use his youth and physical size to bully and out work the Filipino?
The popular opinion is that Pacquiao will easily over-come Vargas. He is, after all, Pacquiao, the great Filipino icon. But this really could turn out to be a passing of the torch fight with Vargas hold advantages in youth and size. We know Pacquiao has battered taller fighters, like Antonio Margarito and Chris Algieri, but that was years ago and this could be a much tougher ask. Saying that we do think Pacquiao will still have enough in the tank to reclaim the WBO Welterweight title, but we don't think this will be as easy as some are suggesting.