Manny Pacquiao recorded a unanimous decision win over Jessie Vargas to claim the WBO welterweight title on his comeback night in Las Vegas. The 37-year-old Filipino – who announced his retirement from the sport after beating Timothy Bradley in April – won the bout 114-113, 118-109 and 118-109, according to the three judges sat at ringside.
The former eight-division world champion fought with more speed and purpose than his American opponent, taking the fight to Vargas from the opening bell. Pacquiao caught Vargas with a straight left hand in the second round that sent him to the canvas, but the American got up quickly.
Thereafter, Vargas continued to struggle to contend with Pacquiao's blinding speed, which has befuddled most of the southpaw's previous opponents.
He was, however, intent on trying to lure Pacquiao into a brawl and in the eighth round, an accidental clash of heads saw Vargas suffer a painful-looking cut.
Pacquiao seized greater control of the bout in the closing rounds and was correctly awarded the decision by all three judges, even though the newly crowned welterweight champion was frustrated he could not score a knockout.
"I feel I could have done more but every round I tried to knock him out," Pacquiao said after the final bell, according to the BBC. "It's why I'm always aggressive but not careless."
The fight at the Thomas & Mack Center was watched by Pacquiao's long-time rival and former opponent Floyd Mayweather Jr, which prompted speculation the American could come out of retirement for a rematch of their May 2015 bout.
"I invited him to come tonight," Pacquiao said of Mayweather, who was sat at ringside. Asked if he wanted a rematch with Mayweather, Pacquiao said: "We will see."
Mayweather, 39, defeated Pacquiao by unanimous decision in their much-discussed bout last year and then announced his retirement from the sport after beating Andre Berto in September 2015. However, the Mayweather versus Pacquaio bout was by far the biggest moneymaker in boxing history and there has been much speculation about a rematch in recent months.