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LAS VEGAS – Manny Pacquiao proved Saturday night (Sunday afternoon in Manila) that age is indeed just a number as he crowned himself as the new World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight king at the Thomas and Mack Center.
Older by 10 years and running on high gear all the time, Pacquiao carved out a 12-round unanimous decision over Jessie Vargas of the US before 16,132 roaring fans.
Glenn Trowbridge and Glenn Feldman had identical scoresheets that tallied 118-109 while Dave Moretti had it 114-113.
Pacquiao, who turns 38 on Dec. 17, scored a knockdown in the second round, thanks to a left straight to the kisser that sent Vargas, 27, on the seat of his pants.
When referee Kenny Bayless administered the count, Vargas was already up on his feet, raring to do battle again with the fighter once regarded as the pound-for-pound king.
The crowd thought that was beginning of the end for Vargas but he still had some magical moments when he stung Pacquiao with his favorite right hand in the fourth and sixth stanzas, sending shivers down the spine of the Pacquiao supporters.
There were no more knockdowns scored after that second round trip by Vargas to the floor but Pacquiao said he tried his best to add another and hopefully compel the referee to intervene.
“I tried every round to knock him down but I don’t want to be careless,” said Pacquiao, who ate some Vargas rights when he attempted to close the gap and connect his killer blows.
“I was very careful in going inside because I know he will counter me,” he said after boosting his record to 59-6-2 with 38 KOs.
The decision win was the 11th straight for Pacquiao as his knockout drought stretches back to Nov. 2009.
Still, Vargas felt that he stood his ground and it prompted Pacquiao to mellow down in his attacks, thinking that he might get by a counter right hand.
“I am not going to argue with the scorecards,” said Vargas, a heavy 7-1 underdog.
“I got a little confident and he caught me with a good sharp left hand. After that it was a chess match. I wanted to catch him with the nice right.”
The adjustment that he made after the knockdown even messed up Pacquiao’s gameplan as Vargas fought better with well-timed counters.
“He was more cautious than usual. He wasn’t coming in comfortably. I made it interesting and intriguing.”
Pacquiao was expected to attend the traditional post-fight press conference but Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum revealed that the fighting lawmaker won’t be able to appear as he was advised by the commission to have his cut treated.
Apparently, a cut was opened in the last round and it needed 16 stitches to close, leaving the 84-year-old Arum with no choice but to scrap the post-fight after the Vargas’ Q&A.
Arum says a fight in April 2017 could be next for Pacquiao with Terence Crawford, Vasyl Lomachenko, Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman as possibilities.