Retirements in boxing are short, we've seen multiple fighters retire more than once. The latest great to retire and then un-retire, is Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38) who retired back in April, follow his third bout against Timothy Bradley, but less than 7 months later to face WBO Welterweight champion Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10), who actually lost to Bradley himself in mid 2015.
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.
It's not often that we can say this but there is a world title fight this coming weekend that seems to have flown under-the-radar despite the fact it features two unbeaten men. That fight will be a WBA Light Welterweight clash between the highly regarded challenger Anton Novikov (29-0-0-1,10) and the defending champion Jessie Vargas (24-0, 9)
The bout has been over-looked for a lot of reasons. Firstly it's not the best fight on it's own show, that's the potential thriller between Brandon Rios (31-2-1, 23) and Diego Gabriel Chaves (23-1, 19). The Rios/Chaves bout is the shows main event and could be the most exciting bout of the month with two men who have power and like to have a fight. Another reason the bout has been over-looked is the other world title fight on the same night which will feature the big punching Sergey Kovalev (24-0-1, 22) and Black Caparello (19-0-1, 6), for our money Kovalev is one of the most exciting men in boxing.
The final reason is connected to the previous reasons in many ways. Rios, Chaves and Kovalev are all exciting men to watch, they all bring action and they all score stoppages. Novikov and Vargas, for all the talent they have, don't stop people. Between them they have a paltry 19 stoppages in 54 bouts. They are the definition of "distance" fighters.
Being distance fighters isn't a bad thing, far from it, but in this case they are relatively boring distance fighters.
Novikov is a very tidy and wonderfully well schooled fighter who throws nice combinations and does a lot of things that are very good. But really lacks power and is defensively sound enough to defend himself when he's forced on to the back foot. He is a man who lives up to his nickname of "The Ice Pick" in many ways including the repeated way he can land with out doing a lot of damage though his is sharp with shots, he reels them off very nicely. In fact from watching him he is only "power" way from being real world class.
Vargas is, in many ways, similar to Novikov. He also lacks power, is well schooled and does a lot of things nicely. He does however move more than Novikov and throws fewer shots, though what he does throw are flashy and eye catching shots that seem to often look like slaps as opposed to punches.
For the challenger this is his first step up and his first really major fight. To US audiences, who are getting this shown to them, he's a bit of a mystery man despite having fought in American several times. Sadly what his US bouts showed is that he really lacks power and they have failed to really generate any buzz around him. It's hard to market a light hitting Russian in the US.
Whilst Novikov has failed to be marketed well Vargas was once advertised as the heir apparent to Floyd Mayweather Jr, an advert that really needed taking to the trading standards commission for false advertising. As soon as the Mayweather link was taken away fans bored of Vargas who was more talented in sending fans to sleep than opponents.
With both men having less than exciting styles and a lack of power we're expecting this one to go the distance and sadly we're expecting it to be a dull one with Novikov chasing Vargas and Vargas landing shots on the move. The by Vargas will likely be better than the limited success Novikov gets and the American will probably defend his belt but leave very few fans excited about him.
We're sorry to say this but of all the bouts this weekend this is probably the most difficult one to care about. It looks likely to be a dull one. We hope we're wrong but if it's a stinker don't blame us.
(Image courtesy of Boxrec.com)
If Manny Pacquiao's rematch with unbeaten American Timothy Bradley is this weekend's main course for boxing fans then one of the best looking starters is the WBA Light Welterweight clash between unbeaten champion Khabib Allakhverdiev (19-0, 9) and unbeaten challenger Jessie Vargas (23-0, 9).
The fight, obviously lacking the high profile names of the Pacquiao/Bradley fight, is one we're expecting could be highly entertaining, arguably the most entertaining bout of the weekend, despite the fact neither man is blessed with amazing speed, skills or power. In fact both are pretty basic in what they do but their flaws, their issues and their relative lack of a stand out skill should mean they make for a special contest.
Of the two men it's Allakhverdiev who is the big betting favourite. The unbeaten champion from Russia is defending his belt for the second time and is on a run of decent results with victories over Nate Campbell, Ignacio Mendoza, Kaizer Mabuza, Joan Guzman and Souleymane M'baye. Of course they aren't murderers's row but they are all credible fighters and some of them, the Guzman one in particular, really were eye catching performances by a man looking to establish himself as one of the elite Light Welterweights.
When we talk about Allakhverdiev we talk about a man who seemingly can do it all at times. He can box, he fan fight and he can brawl. The flaw with him however is that he sometimes doesn't seem to know what he should be doing when. Against Guzman for example he had success in out working and out powering the Dominican though late in the bout tried to fight on the back foot with counters rather than taking it his opponents. Against M'baye he often looked disinterested, as if he knew he could stop the French veteran whenever and as a result looked poor for long spurts of the bout.
At his best Allakhverdiev is a genuine to 6 guy at 140lbs. He's a nightmare for pretty much anyone and versatile enough to give very good fighters a lot of trouble. At his worst he's mentally susceptible to turning off, giving rounds away and getting himself in to unnecessary trouble.
In unbeaten challenger Vargas we have a man who was once tipped by Floyd Mayweather Jr to be a star. That claim however seems to have been one of Floyd's most outlandish and looking from the outside in Vargas has nothing "star" like about him. He's bland, boring, lacks power and doesn't have anything that makes us want to watch him unless his opponent is an exciting type of fighter.
From his 23 fight career Vargas has had only a handful of mildly memorable bouts. One of those was his clash with Trenton Titsworth, which saw Titsworth stealing the show as he kissed Vargas and was deducted 2-points for "kissing" and for doing it "deliberately"-we kid you not, one was his fight with Josesito Lopez, which saw many feeling Lopez had been robbed due to Vargas's Mayweather links at the time, and finally his bout with Wale Omotoso, which saw both men going to war in what was a really good fight.
Vargas is a somewhat talented pure boxing with nice speed, nice heart and guts. Three very admirable traits. Unfortunately he lacks anything to really differentiate himself from 90% of other promising young fighters.
Against a fighter coming to fight with him, as Omotoso and Lopez did, Vargas can be dragged in to a dog fight. It's that that we're hoping to see here with Allakhverdiev hopefully coming with the intention of setting an aggressive pace, forcing Vargas to fire back and in the process give us 12 good, solid and entertaining rounds of action.
If the fight is fought as a boxing contest we think Vargas, a 2-1 underdog,could manage to do enough to spring the upset. If the bout is a battle though we can only see a successful defence from the Russian who will need to be at his best here in what is his toughest fight so far.
(Picture of Khabib courtesy of boxrec)
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.