Manny Pacquiao looks set to face WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas in his comeback fight on 5 November. 'Pacman' unconvincingly called time on his illustrious 66-fight professional boxing career after comfortably outpointing Timothy Bradley in the final installment of their trilogy at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in April, instead opting to focus on politics ahead of his election to the Senate of the Philippines.
Such a retirement has proved to be predictably short-lived, however, with long-time promoter and Top Rank CEO Bob Arum confirming speculation over a likely return last month by revealing that Pacquiao had "asked us to find a venue, an opponent and date that doesn't interfere with his senatorial duties or his availability to train".
Controversial American Adrien Broner was ruled out of the running to be named as his opponent despite initially being considered among the front runners, while trainer Freddie Roach recently warned against a rumoured showdown with unified light welterweight title-holder Terence Crawford following the latter's impressive victory over Viktor Postol.
The usual tedious hearsay about a second duel with rival and fellow retiree Floyd Mayweather Jr has also been mooted in addition to a possible bout against Danny Garcia, but now it seems that a deal has been agreed with Vargas.
"Retirement doesn't suit Manny right now," Pacquiao's manager, Michael Koncz, told the Los Angeles Times. "Boxing is in his blood. When he trains, it's like a pressure-release valve. You can see a dramatic difference in his mood ... he's happy. It's amazing what training and fighting does for him."
Vargas has been WBO champion since bouncing back from a controversial defeat by Bradley to claim the vacant belt with a ninth-round stoppage of Sadam Ali in March. He admitted last month that he had signed his end of the deal for a summer unification clash with IBF title-holder Kell Brook, only to miss out when the unbeaten Sheffield fighter stunned the boxing fraternity by announcing that he would be moving up to middleweight in September to challenge pound-for-pound king Gennady Golovkin for his WBA Super, WBC, IBF and WBO straps.
The only jigsaw left to fall into place for Pacquiao's return is the venue, with Koncz set to meet Pacquiao and Arum to discuss possible options. He added: "That's the essence of the meeting. Not choosing the opponent. That's already been done."
Dubai seems to remain a potential setting, with the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas also a contender.