FORMER 8-division world champion and future hall-of-famer Manny Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs) kicked off training camp in the Philippines this week. The former welterweight champion, currently serving as a senator in his native country, seeks to recapture the same WBO World title he lost to Floyd Mayweather in May of 2015.
Across the ring from Pacquiao on November 5 will be the current WBO champion at 147 pounds, Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs). Vargas acquired the belt in March of this year in a vacant title opportunity opposite then-unbeaten Sadam Ali in Washington DC.
“Back to training with my friend and trainer Buboy Fernandez,” read a post on Pacquiao’s social media accounts, along with a picture of Pacquiao working the speed bag at the Elorde Gym Five Ecom Center in Pasay, Philippines.
“I’m back. I’m back,” he later added. But back to compete in a fight that has received a considerable amount of criticism due to the perceived lack of challenge that his opponent is expected to pose. Vargas naturally and vehemently disagrees.
Choosing instead to focus on their November 19th light heavyweight super fight between Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward, HBO has actually refused to distribute Pacquiao-Vargas as a pay-per-view event, leaving promoter Top Rank without a primary network.
Adding insult to injury, the fight is scheduled to take place at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas’ Thomas & Mack Center instead of at a major arena on the Las Vegas strip, where Pacquiao has fought each of his US-based fights since his November 2010 match against Antonio Margarito.
“The fact that they passed means the contract is over,” said Arum to the Los Angeles Times. “It seems clear to me. They can’t pick and choose which fights they are going to distribute. They’re either in breach of contract or they’ve ended the contract. My feeling is, based my legal background, is that the contract is terminated.”
Assuming his interpretation is accurate, a Manny Pacquiao that is a network free-agent may open the doors for fights that may have once seemed impossible, specifically against anyone currently advised by Al Haymon, assuming he and Arum can get along for long enough to get pens on paper.
Aside from Kell Brook, who may have already seen his last days at 147 pounds, and Timothy Bradley, a former three-time Pacquiao opponent, Haymon boxers make up the lion’s share of the elite welterweight picture.
Not having HBO in the mix could mean that Pacquiao’s next fight could land on cable or even network television. Whether or not that means that Pacquaio-Garcia, Pacquaio-Thurman, and Pacquiao-Khan are now in play remains to be seen.
Most notable in this mix is the fact that it would, presumably, make a second fight with Floyd Mayweather infinitely easier to negotiate if Pacquiao’s long-time rival were to come out of retirement. Capping off his storied career with his 50th win and a nine-figure payday may be too difficult for “Money” Mayweather to turn down.