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Like many assumed, Manny Pacquiao’s retirement didn’t last very long.
The Filipino superstar who has won world titles in a record eight different weight classes will come out of his brief retirement to face Jessie Vargas on Nov. 5 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
The announcement comes after weeks of speculation and confusion regarding whether Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs) would indeed come out of retirement after leaving the sport to focus on his political career. ESPN.com confirmed the announcement with both Pacquiao and Arum.
“Yes, the fight is on. I have agreed to a Nov. 5 fight with reigning WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas,” Pacquiao said. “Boxing is my passion. I miss what I’d been doing inside the gym and atop the ring.”
Pacquiao took a hiatus from the sport after scoring a unanimous decision victory over Timothy Bradley in April. Many speculated that Pacquiao would eventually return considering how well he performed against an opponent who would otherwise be undefeated if it weren’t for his two losses to the Filipino. But Pacquiao stated that he would put all of his energy into his seat in the Philippines senate, which he was elected to in May, and needed to retire from the sport. Even in the postfight press conference, Pacquiao appeared to leave the door open for a return. And now, four months later, the 37-year-old walked right through that door.
A plan is in place for Pacquiao to balance his senator duties with training and he will handle the bulk of his training in the Philippines before heading to the United States a few weeks before the fight to wrap up his camp.
“I miss my boxing routine of training, the things I do for my sport every day, but I assure my people my fight and training will not affect my work as a senator,” Pacquiao said. “My training — no problem. We will start early in the morning for my runs and gym training. There are no sessions or hearings in the senate at 6 or 7 a.m. They usually start earliest at 10 a.m., so I will be able to manage my schedule.”
Many hoped that if Pacquiao did return, he would square off with Terence Crawford, who scored a one-sided victory over Viktor Postol last month and is recognized as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world. However, Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, didn’t seem too eager to take that fight as he was concerned that Pacquiao would need at least one fight under his belt as senator before taking on the tall task of facing the unbeaten Crawford.
With that comes the choice of Vargas. Although he is the WBO welterweight champion, Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs) isn’t terribly popular nor is he considered to be much of a threat. But Pacquiao maintained that he selected Vargas for two reasons: he holds a world title and he fights at welterweight (apparently, Crawford would have pressed the issue for the fight to be at 140 pounds). Vargas has been champing at the bit for a big fight after putting together an exceptional performance in knocking out Sadam Ali in March to become the champion. His only loss is to Timothy Bradley.
How the fight will be televised has not been nailed down as of yet. Although Pacquiao is under contract with HBO, Arum told ESPN that the network would not be producing or distributing the event. There have been some issues between Arum and HBO regarding how to handle this fight. With HBO putting together the Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev PPV fight in Las Vegas on Nov. 19, the network is reluctant to hold two pay-per-views in the same month. However, with a fighter the caliber of Pacquiao, Arum insisted on the date and location, which he secured to accommodate Pacquiao’s political schedule.
If HBO is unwilling to put Pacquiao-Vargas on PPV, Arum says that Pacquiao will be a free agent. However, that’s not necessarily a route HBO wants to take with Pacquiao because he remains one of boxing’s biggest stars and there is still hope that a rematch with Floyd Mayweather will happen in the future.
It is not known whether Pacquiao will continue his boxing career after his fight with Vargas, but he did make it clear that the reasons for his return are financial.
“Boxing is my main source of income. I can’t rely on my salary as a public official,” Pacquiao said.
He’s made a lot of money during his career, including somewhere in the ballpark of $150 million when he fought Mayweather last May. Apparently, that windfall of money isn’t enough considering how much Pacquiao wants to help his home country.
“I’m helping the family of my wife and my own family, as well. Many people also come to me to ask for help, and I just couldn’t ignore them.”