Pacquiao packs power in final workout before Vargas fight

LAS VEGAS, USA – Manny Pacquiao switched from his business suit to his workout gear, flipping his mentality to fighting mode on Wednesday afternoon, November 2, banging away with heavy shots in his final gym workout before Saturday's challenge of WBO welterweight champ Jessie Vargas.

Freddie Roach, his trainer for the past 15 years, had previously predicted that Pacquiao would knock out the 27-year-old Mexican-American from Las Vegas, but couldn't tell on Wednesday if his fighter was thinking about a knockout win. He did say it felt like Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 knockouts) had rocks in his fists after finishing a few rounds on the punch mitts.

But could Pacquiao, who hasn't stopped an opponent since his 2009 fight against Miguel Cotto, end his knockout drought against Vargas (27-1, 10 knockouts), and whose only defeat came in a competitive decision loss against Timothy Bradley Jr last year? Roach is hopeful.

"The thing is, Manny’s never been a big, big puncher at 147, he hasn’t knocked anyone out since moving up to that weight class," said Roach of his fighter, who hasn't stopped an opponent since his 2009 fight against Miguel Cotto.

"But he’s getting more aggressive than he was before with his boxing skills, he had 6 knockdowns with [Chris] Algieri and a couple knockdowns against Bradley [in April]. I like this Manny Pacquiao better, the way he’s been looking, the way he’s been sparring, the way he’s hitting the mitts, it’s like the Manny Pacquiao in the Ricky Hatton days."

HEAVY HITTER. Manny Pacquiao looked focused on landing with heavier power in his final gym workout before facing WBO welterweight champ Jessie Vargas. Photo by Wendell Alinea/Rappler

HEAVY HITTER. Manny Pacquiao looked focused on landing with heavier power in his final gym workout before facing WBO welterweight champ Jessie Vargas.

Photo by Wendell Alinea/Rappler

It was Pacquiao's destructive style which first helped him rise to fame, and a knockout win, even against a significant underdog, would help reignite the Filipino boxer's popularity as talk persists of significant fights against the likes of WBO junior welterweight champ Terence Crawford, lineal middleweight champ Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, or even a rematch against Floyd Mayweather Jr, who is rumored to be back in training after retiring last year.

"It'd be a big plus for us," added Roach. Roach says Pacquiao will do a light run on Thursday morning, rest Friday before the weigh-in, and then go for a walk on Saturday before the fight to stay loose.

Fighting Senator

It's a different life than many expected of Pacquiao after he retired in April this year following a one-sided victory over Bradley. Pacquiao was elected to the Philippine Senate the following month but changed his mind and announced his intention to fight again.

"I thought I won't see you again but now I'm here, continuing my journey," said Pacquiao at the press conference. 

The promotion for the fight has centered around Pacquiao's challenging balancing act as both a senator and a fighter, and he's taken pride in repeating that he has not missed a day at the office since taking his oath of service. His performance on Saturday could give a glimpse into how wise following a similarly difficult schedule could affect him against higher-profile fighters than Vargas in 2017.

"I tell you this, don’t do this. Being a fighter and a senator, it’s not easy, if you don’t have discipline yourself," Pacquiao said, evoking laughter from the crowd. "Don’t [be] like Manny Pacquiao, thinking too much."

Manny Pacquiao wears his newest shirt designed by Anda, a Chinese apparel brand. Photo by Wendell Alinea/Rappler

Manny Pacquiao wears his newest shirt designed by Anda, a Chinese apparel brand.

Photo by Wendell Alinea/Rappler

While a Pacquiao knockout win could boost his popularity again, Vargas is thinking of his own punching power and how it can help him make his name as a star in the sport. Though Vargas has a low knockout percentage, he was able to seriously hurt Bradley in the final round of their fight, and scored a knockout win over previously undefeated fighter Sadam Ali to win the vacant title in March.

"We have overexceeded every aspect in training when it comes to speed, power, intelligence in the ring, ring savvy. We have strong hook, we have a strong right, so either way, if he wants to sneak over to the right, we’ll catch him. If he wants to sneak over to the left, we’ll also get him there," said Vargas. – Rappler.com