Manny Pacquiao is back. And he's a champion.
In a relatively lopsided fight, the Filipino legend defeated Jessie Vargas by unanimous decision and claimed the WBO welterweight championship. The three judges scored the bout 114-113, 118-109 and 119-109.
Pacquiao, even at 37, showed flashes of the younger man that once dominated multiple weight divisions. He hit Vargas from all angles, and never slowed down.
Pacquiao dropped Vargas in the second round with a short left hand. The punch didn't hurt Vargas, but it certainly got his attention. Vargas smiled as he sat on on his backside, attempting to shake off the flash knockdown.
He was up quickly, but the knockdown revealed that Pacquiao was faster and had the power to push back the younger champion.
Although Vargas showed heart throughout the fight, Pacquiao slowly wore him down with the volume of his punches. Vargas showed a nervous smile from time to time in the fight, but he had no real counter or answer for Pacquiao's energy and mobility inside the ring.
Vargas occasionally landed a right hand, but Pacquiao took the punches in stride. In the eighth round, clearly Vargas' best, the Mexican-American landed a right hand that woke Pacquiao up from a momentary malaise. Pacquiao fired up in response and threw several left hook-right hand combinations that stopped Vargas's attempt to get an edge.
Vargas also had to contend with his right eye, which swelled up and started to close from the Pacquiao's left hooks. A punch in the eight round opened a cut over the eye, and the blood started to pour.
Vargas had nothing in rounds 10-12, tripping twice over Pacquiao's feet and falling to the ground. As Vargas faded, Pacquiao came on stronger, seemingly toying with the younger man.
Vargas, standing on the ropes as the announcement was made, threw his head down in surprise after the announcement. An egregious score of 114-113 was a mere aberration in an otherwise one-sided fight. In the post-fight interview, Vargas called the fight close and said it was "a chess match."
"His speed surprised me in the beginning," Vargas said. "It took that shot to wake me up. We will come back stronger in the next fight. It is a good learning experience."
Pacquiao was non-committal in his post-fight interview, saying he was going to return to the Philippines, where is a Senator, and then let the fans decide who he fights next.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. was at the Thomas & Mack Center for the fight, and was showed on camera several times, but Pacquiao declined to call him out for a rematch.
Jessie Magdaleno vs. Nonito Donaire (WBO super bantamweight championship)
Undefeated Jessie Magdaleno fought a near technically perfect fight to upset Nonito Donaire and win the WBO super bantamweight championship.
Magdaleno stayed busy through the 12 rounds, landing with frequent lead lefts. He also slowed down Donaire with wicked right hands to the body.
The judges scored the fight 116-112 (2x) and 118-110.
Donaire kept the match close during the first half of the fight. He connected with hard right hands that earned Magdaleno's respect, but Donaire was never able to score often enough with his combinations. An accidental head butt in the fourth round cut Magdaleno over the left eye, but he weathered the storm from the blood and fought back.
After some close rounds, Magdaleno pulled away from Donaire in the 9th, daring him to move forward. When Donaire took the bait, Magdaleno let loose with a flurry of rapid-fire punches that pushed Donaire back as the round ended.
Magdaleno moves to 24-0, with 17 knockouts. Donaire drops to 37-4, with 24 knockouts.
Oscar Valdez vs. Hiroshige Osawa (WBO Featherweight Championship)
Valdez knocked out Osawa in the 7th round after a stiff left hook, followed by a flurry of punches against the ropes, forcing the referee to step in and stop the fight.
Valdez dominated the fight from the opening bell, nearly knocking him out in the third round. In the third round Valdez dropped Osawa with a left hook to the jaw. Valdez may have punched himself out in round three because he took the next three rounds off. But Valdez came out strong in the 7th and flung Osawa back against the ropes where he finished him with combinations.