November 6, 2016 - 8:39 am
Manny Pacquiao felt the hunger and drive that the younger Jessie Vargas had before they met in the ring.
Pacquiao knows the pressure of trying to defeat a legendary fighter to make your own name.
But the former eight-division champion bluntly said last week he didn’t think Vargas had the necessary skills to be an elite fighter.
Pacquiao was right.
The future Hall of Famer displayed his usual fast hands and shifty feet to beat Vargas by unanimous decision (114-113, 118-109, 118-109), taking Vargas’ WBO welterweight belt before an announced crowd of 16,132 Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“I tried to knock him down every round,” Pacquiao said. “I had to be careful because I knew he would counter me. I felt I could do more.”
One of those is attendance was retired superstar Floyd Mayweather Jr., who sat ringside to watch his former opponent, Pacquiao, and fighter, Vargas, who once was with Mayweather Promotions.
“Not bad,” Mayweather said of Pacquiao’s performance. Mayweather beat Pacquiao last year in the most lucrative fight in boxing history.
Pacquiao said he invited Mayweather to the fight, but didn’t say if he wanted a rematch with Mayweather.
The Las Vegan Vargas was outskilled from the opening bell. Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs) dropped Vargas (27-2, 10 KOs) with a big left in the second round.
“His speed surprised me at the beginning and that woke me up,” Vargas said.
Vargas, with only the overhand right in his arsenal, had decent spurts, but wasn’t able to capitalize on the few power shots he landed.
Las Vegas has a new world champion. Local fighter Jessie Magdaleno started fast and did enough to take Nonito Donaire’s WBO junior featherweight title by unanimous decision (116-112, 116-112, 118-110).
Magdaleno’s speed took over the early rounds, but struggled to keep pace in the later rounds.
“I worked so hard for this. Can’t believe I beat a fighter like Donaire,” said the 24-year-old Magdaleno (24-0, 17 KOs). “I don’t have words to describe it.”
The 33-year-old Donaire (37-4, 24 KOs), a potential Hall of Famer, went out like a true champion. The Filipino Flash stunned Magdaleno with his left hand to make a late surge.
“We clearly won the fight,” Donaire said. “We had control in the later rounds.”
Magdaleno’s older brother, Diego, had his hands on his head with a big smile after the scores were announced. Diego Magdaleno twice failed in his attempts to become a world champion. The Magdaleno family finally achieved its dream.
Before the fight, Donaire said he would start slow and look to be a defensive fighter with new trainer Ismael Salas in his corner. The toned-down pace probably cost Donaire the belt.
Jessie Magdaleno, who stood out with dyed blond hair, was noticeably faster and stronger than Donaire for most of the rounds. But Donaire had plenty left in the tank.
Magdaleno’s stablemate, Oscar Valdez, had an easy night to defend his WBO featherweight belt. Valdez recorded a seventh-round technical knockout over Hiroshige Osawa. Magdaleno and Valdez both are trained by Manny Robles.
The Zou Shiming-Prasitak Phaprom sequel was better than the original, but the outcome was the same. The faster, stronger Shiming cruised to another unanimous decision against Phaprom (120-107, 120-107, 119-108) to open the Pacquiao-Vargas PPV card with fireworks.
Shiming, who defeated Phaprom in 2014, added the vacant WBO flyweight title to his trophy case, which includes two Olympic gold medals for China.
“My dream is finally complete,” Shiming said. “I’m a pro champion, Olympic champion and world champion.”
Shiming danced and smiled at Phaprom after every combination that landed. Phaprom, who goes by “Mini Manny,” wasn’t rattled and kept tapping his chin at Shiming.
Contact Gilbert Manzano at email@example.com or 702-383-0492. Follow @gmanzano24 on Twitter.