Jessie Vargas vows to press the action. ‘I love that, that’s real boxing,’ Manny Pacquiao says

Manny Pacquiao, left, will battle WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas on Saturday.
(Steve Marcus / Associated Press)

Manny Pacquiao’s crusade to please people is a never-ending pursuit, evidenced by his generosity and his passion for an action-filled bout.

Pacquiao, 37, hopes to deliver on both in his return to the ring Saturday night at Thomas and Mack Center in his welterweight title fight against World Boxing Organization champion Jessie Vargas.

“I’m not a greedy person. I give tickets and money to the people and I give a good fight to the fans,” Pacquiao said. “That’s my mission.”

The 27-year-old Vargas (27-1, 10 knockouts) has hinted strongly that he’ll bring an aggressive fight style to Pacquiao.

“You know we have [a big punch awaiting for Pacquiao], of course,” Vargas trainer Dewey Cooper said. “And when it lands, good night!”


Vargas is 10 years younger and has four-inch edges in height and reach over Pacquiao, who had to manage his training schedule while also working as a first-term senator in the Philippines.

Pacquiao, meanwhile, has professed he’s in premier shape and ready to rely on his experience, speed and power to score his first knockout victory since stopping Miguel Cotto in 2009.

“Both of us have advantages in this fight, but it depends on how you use it and if you don’t know how to use your advantage, you’ll lose,” Pacquiao said. “I’m hungry too, and I have advantages I know how to use in this fight.

“Jessie Vargas is the champion. He’s a lot taller than me and that’s an advantage, but it’s not the first time I’ve fought a taller guy. I cannot disclose how I’ll win the fight, but I can say I’m excited for Saturday.”

Pacquiao has impressed those closest to him this week with his happiness about returning to boxing following a brief retirement in April.

He had knocked down former world champion Timothy Bradley Jr. twice in a unanimous-decision victory, then announced he was retiring to focus on his Senate run and an expected heavy workload.

But the ever-active Pacquiao discovered he could handle both legislative and pugilistic pursuits, and announced he’d return in July.

“The Filipino people were doubting I could be a senator and a boxer. But with time management and the discipline, I did it, and I’m so happy I did. I’ve really enjoyed it,” Pacquiao said. “I’m 38 next month, but I don’t feel old.”

That was evident Thursday, when Pacquiao answered questions from international television reporters for 90 minutes, then went for a run before returning to the Wynn Resort to lead a prayer group of an estimated 300 people.

He told one reporter he has given away 2,000 tickets to friends, family and supporters for his fight against Vargas after pushing promoter Bob Arum to make the ticket price $50 for 7,000 seats.

“It’s a big country,” Pacquiao cracked in reference to his legion of fans from the Philippines, where he has said he has given away about half of his overall earnings to those in need.

Pacquiao, after earning an estimated $150 million for his 2015 loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr., will get a $4 million guarantee with upside from overall sales for Saturday’s bout, Arum said.

By winning, Pacquiao, a record former seven-division world champion, is seeking to claim the WBO welterweight belt for a fourth time.

He was animated in talking about Vargas’ plans to press the action, clapping his hands in anticipation for the camera to see.

“I love that, that’s real boxing,” Pacquiao said. “I like my opponent coming forward.”

And he also hinted where he’s heading. Though Arum said bouts against super-lightweight champion Terence Crawford or super-featherweight Vasyl Lomachenko could come next, Pacquiao also would enjoy a Mayweather rematch.

“One [fight] at a time, but of course my journey must continue,” he said.


Who: Manny Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs), Philippines, vs. Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs), Las Vegas, for Vargas’ World Boxing Organization welterweight belt

Where: Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas

When: Saturday, pay-per-view broadcast begins at 6 p.m. Pacific

Television: Pay-per-view, $59.95

Undercard: Oscar Valdez (20-0, 18 KOs), Lake Elsinore, vs. Hiroshige Osawa (30-3-4, 19 KOs), Japan, for Valdez’s WBO featherweight belt; Nonito Donaire (37-3, 24 KOs), Las Vegas, vs. Jessie Magdaleno (23-0, 17 KOs), Las Vegas, for Donaire’s WBO super-bantamweight belt; Zou Shiming (8-1, two KOs), China, vs. Prasitsak Phaprom (39-1-2, 24 KOs), Thailand, for vacant WBO flyweight belt.

Twitter: @latimespugmire