Arum: Pacquiao will juggle boxing, Senate duties for Vargas fight

MANILA, Philippines – Top Rank boss Bob Arum, who is in Manila to discuss the prizefighting future of Manny Pacquiao, confirmed to reporters that Pacquiao will face WBO welterweight titleholder Jessie Vargas on November 5 – just under 7 months after Pacquiao announced his retirement following a 3rd fight with Timothy Bradley Jr. 

On Wednesday, August 10, Arum, alongside Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz, attended a hearing at the Philippine Senate, where the 37-year-old Pacquiao currently sits as first-term senator.

Arum told reporters that he ironed out details the Tuesday night with Pacquiao, adding that the fight against the once-beaten Mexican-American will set up bigger fights in 2017.

He confirmed the fight will take place in Las Vegas, but didn’t say which venue would host the fight. The Thomas and Mack Center had been mentioned earlier as a possible venue. 

“This is a tough fight for Manny. Manny doesn’t want any easy fights,” Arum said of Vargas (27-1, 10 knockouts).

Vargas knocked out 2008 US Olympian Sadam Ali in March to win the title which Bradley vacated in order to fight the 8-division champion Pacquiao (58–6-2, 38 KOs) in May. The lone blemish in Vargas’ 8-year career is a unanimous decision loss to Bradley in June of 2015, in which he nearly knocked Bradley out in the 12th and final round. 

“Hopefully if [Pacquiao] beats Vargas, there’s be some other big fights available next year. And I’m pretty sure that enough will be enough, and by 2017 we'll be seeing the end of Manny’s brilliant boxing career,” said Arum.

Vargas, like Pacquiao, is promoted by Top Rank. The other fighter whose name was bounced around as a possible opponent for Pacquiao was WBO/WBC junior welterweight titleholder Terence Crawford (29-0, 20 KOs), a switch-hitter from Nebraska who ranks among the best boxers pound for pound in the world.

There has also been speculation about Floyd Mayweather Jr, whom Pacquiao lost a decision to in May of 2015, returning from retirement. Mayweather hasn’t fought since winning a decision over Andre Berto last September to move his record to 49-0. 

“Crawford is a possibility, and who knows, Mayweather may be a possibility. You know Mayweather’s making noises about returning and going to a 50th fight, and let’s see Manny with a fully healed shoulder. I think manny would give a lot better account of himself in that fight,” said Arum. 

“I thought it was a very close fight. I thought Manny could have won that fight. when they fight again, if they fight again, I have no doubt that Manny will win.” 

Fight during Senate recess

Arum confirmed that Pacquiao will leave for the United States to promote the fight September 8-10, after which he’ll train with Freddie Roach in the Philippines before wrapping up camp in the United States while the Senate is on break. The Senate will be on recess from October 22 to November 6, which is the date Pacquiao's fight will take place on Philippine local time.

Pacquiao had earlier sought permission from Senate president pro-tempore Franklin Drilon, who gave his OK as long as Pacquiao would not be remiss in his Senate duties.

Arum, who has promoted boxing since 1966, saod Pacquiao, who had previously been billed as “The Fighting Congressman” during his two terms in the Philippine House of Representatives, is charting new territory in combining legislative duties and those of a fighter. 

“I don’t know how extensive the work is as a senator in the Philippines. Manny does, the other senators do, they all feel and Manny feels that he can train here in Manila, not miss any sessions, fight in the period when the Senate is in recess, and give a great performance,” said Arum. 

“In fact whether he can do that or not, that’s up to him. It’s something that we have never ever seen before in the sport of boxing.” – with reports from Camille Elemia/Rappler.com