Manny Pacquiao returns to the ring Saturday night against an inferior opponent who honestly has no business making it to the final bell.
In his first fight as a Senator, Pacquiao will square off against WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas at the Thomas & Mack in Las Vegas, NV. Even though he is now a part pugilist, there's no reason to believe that Vargas stands a snowball's chance in hell against the legendary 8-division world champion.
Don't let the anybody fool you into believing that this will be competitive. The height and youth advantages that Vargas possesses will be rendered virtually useless. Let's be honest, this is a calculated mismatch that is more about whether Manny Pacquiao can effectively split his time between passing bills as a Senator and preparing for a fight.
And on Saturday night, Manny Pacquiao is going to score one hell of a knockout against Jessie Vargas. And then we can start talking about who's next in line.
After he leaves Vargas in a heap, the stage will be set for a real fight against the likes of Canelo Alvarez, Amir Khan, Terence Crawford or, of course, Floyd Mayweather.
Let's look at how Pacquiao is going to score his first knockout in seven years.
Speed matters, and it's what has fueled Pacquiao's successful career. Even at a diminutive 5' 5", he has almost always found a way to topple bigger, arguably stronger men be effectively utilizing his speed. While Pacquiao has certainly slowed down in recent years, he is still faster than most fighters, and his ability to thrust punches onto his opponents so rapidly that they don't have to time adjust or react, is his meal ticket. He is older, so he likely won't be able to be the same hurricane of punches that he once was, but he won't need to. Vargas lacks the athletic ability to deftly avoid a Pacquiao barrage. All that will lead to is numerous Pacquiao combinations that will bounce off the skull of Vargas with alarming regularity. Vargas literally isn't going to know what hit him.
Pacquiao has superior movement. He can move forward, back, laterally and diagonally with the same effectiveness. Vargas' trainer likened Pacquiao's movements to that of an elite NBA point guard. What that means is that Pacquiao's unconventional movement will require Vargas to fight something other than a conventional boxer. Pacquiao will push the fight from awkward angles to fluster and frustrate the young champ.
His movement will keep Vargas guessing. We have not seen Vargas show an ability to adjust dramatically in a fight. If he was outboxed by Timothy Bradley most of the fight, he is certainly going to be in trouble against Pacquiao. The key for Pacquiao is to frustrate his younger opponent, who unlike Mayweather Jr., isn't going to be happy fighting a counter-defensive fight; it's not his strength anyway.
The foot speed will take Pacquiao away from Vargas' biggest threat, his right hand up the middle. He will move away from Vargas' right hand, which undoubtedly he will attempt during the short, furious exchanges. This fight will resemble the Oscar De La Hoya fight, but even more one-sided.
Youth is an incredible asset, but experience often makes the difference in close fights. Pacquiao is one of the greatest fighters of all time, and he has been in the ring with a who's who of other greats, including Floyd Mayweather Jr., Juan Manuel Marquez and Oscar De la Hoya.
Pacquiao is not going to get fight night jitters, and if he gets into trouble during the fight, he is not going to panic. This is the Pacquiao show, and he will be in charge. He will start quick and fast and confident, while Vargas is going to stalk and chase and take a couple of rounds to get warm. By that time, it will be too late. Pacquiao is ready to go from the first bell. Vargas will be overwhelmed, and will be playing catch-up the whole fight.
Pacquiao doesn't have one-punch knock out power, but his speed is so devastating, that he knocks people out just from the volume of punches he throws. This isn't MMA, where a guy like Michael Bisping just has to worry about Dan Henderson's right hand. Vargas has to worry about the power that comes from getting peppered by three and four-punch combinations. By the time the fourth punch lands, Vargas will have nowhere to go but down.
Pacquiao is also a master body puncher. Expect him to open up Vargas's head by slamming his gut with wicked body shots. When Vargas attempts to protect the body, Pacquiao will land on the jaw.
Pacquiao will coast to victory against Vargas, knocking him out before Round 10. There's too much at stake for the Filipino hero. Still burning inside him is the loss to Mayweather Jr., so he wants to avenge that fight, and although it won't be as lucrative as the first one, Mayweather-Pacquiao II is the ultimate destination for him.
Vargas is about to get rolled.