The hearts of boxing fans should go out to Jessie Vargas, at least a little bit. He is the guy nobody wants to see at the party. Even though he is a great guy and has done everything possible for years to earn his invitation.
But when Vargas was announced as Manny Pacquiao’s opponent for his return bout in November, a collective groan went out across the boxing world. This was not the fight anybody wanted to see.
Still, what was Vargas supposed to do? Turn down the fight out of deference to everybody else’s sense of entitlement. A pay-per-view shot against Manny Pacquiao has been the sort of opportunity countless fighters of this generation have strived for everyday of their career.
And Vargas is legitimately a top fighter. His only loss in 28 fights came against Timothy Bradley, one of the top fighters of the past decade. And even in that bout, he landed a big punch late that had Bradley in a lot of trouble in the fight’s closing seconds. Bradley clearly out-boxed Vargas, but the fact that Vargas hung on to give himself a chance late speaks to what kind of fighter he is.
It’s not even as if Vargas is the weakest opponent Pacquiao has faced in recent years. He is better than both Brandon Rios and Chris Algieri, who Pacquiao fought in 2013 and 2014.
But Pacquiao fought those two at a point when fans were still hoping to see if he would finally face Floyd Mayweather. They were stay-busy fights that boxing fans endured, while waiting for the big, “Fight of the Century” payoff.
But now Mayweather vs. Pacquiao is in the rearview window. Nobody but the most craven Pacquiao fanboy believes the injured shoulder fairy tale or wants to see a rematch.
At this point, Pacquiao is interesting to the rank-and-file fan as a measuring stick for truly elite rising stars. Pacquiao looked very good in defeat of Bradley last April. Aside from a few diehards, nobody cares about seeing him beat a guy Bradley easily beat, just because he is Pacquiao.