Pacquiao returns to claim WBO welterweight title

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Manny Pacquiao put on a dazzling display in his return to the ring after a brief retirement, scoring a unanimous decision over champion Jessie Vargas to claim the WBO welterweight title in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Despite giving away 10 years to his opponent, the 37-year-old Pacquiao fought with more intensity and energy, and dominated the American in the final rounds to close out an emphatic victory.

The judges scored the bout 114-113, 118-109 and 118-109 in favor of Pacquiao, the only fighter to hold titles in eight divisions, with the Filipino improving to 59-6-2, while Vargas fell to 27-2.

It was a master class taught by the first sitting Senator to win a world boxing championship as Pacquiao temporarily left the ring to win election in the Philippines and serve in office before making a return to what he called his "passion".

Pacquiao, whose last previous bout was a unanimous decision over Timothy Bradley in April, showed quickly that he had not lost his skills, knocking Vargas down in the second round with a straight left to the champion's face.

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Manny Pacquiao, right, of the Philippines, hits Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez during a WBO welterweight title fight Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Manny Pacquiao, right, of the Philippines, hits Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez during a WBO welterweight title fight Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines celebrates after his victory over Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez during a WBO welterweight title fight Saturday, Nov. 12, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines and WBO junior welterweight champion Chris Algieri of the U.S., left, exchange punches during their world welterweight title boxing match at the Venetian Macao in Macau, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. Pacquiao got the big knockdowns he so desperately craved, battering Algieri around the ring at will Sunday on his way to a decision win in one of the most lopsided welterweight title fights imaginable. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao, right, of the Philippines lands a right on the face of WBO junior welterweight champion Chris Algieri of the United States during their world welterweight title boxing match at the Venetian Macao in Macau, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
Manny Pacquiao (R) hits Marco Antonio Barrera during the eighth round of their 12-round super featherweight bout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center October 6, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Pacquiao won by unanimous decision. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Manny Pacquiao, of the Phillipines, is declared the victor, after his bout with Marco Antonio Barrera, of Mexico, during their super featherweight boxing match, Saturday, Oct. 6, 2007, at The Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison)
Referee Joe Cortez sends Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, to a neutral corner after Pacquiao knocked down Juan Manuel Marquez, of Mexico City, in the first round of their WBA and IBF world featherweight title fight Saturday, May 8, 2004 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Joe Cavaretta)
Covered in blood from a gash over his eye, Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, walks back to his corner between rounds during his world super featherweight championship against Erik Morales, of Mexico, on Saturday, March 19, 2005, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Morales won by decision after twelve rounds. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison)
Manny Pacquiao, left, of the Philippines, takes a swing at Erik Morales, of Mexico, during the 10th round of their super featherweight boxing match Saturday night, Jan. 21, 2006, in Las Vegas. Pacquiao won when the fight was stopped in the 10th round. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Erik Morales, left, of Mexico kneels on the mat as referee Kenny Bayless, center, calls him outs while Manny Pacquiao, right, of the Philippines, goes to a neutral corner during the 10th round of their super featherweight boxing match, Saturday night, Jan. 21, 2006, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Erik Morales, of Mexico, throws a left hand at Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, in the ninth round of their world super featherweight championship on Saturday, March 19, 2005, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Morales won by decision after twelve rounds. (AP Photo/R. Marsh Starks)
Manny Pacquiao (R) throws a right jab against a blocking Lehlohonolo Ledwaba during IBF Super Bantamweight Championship bout at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Pacquiao won the bout by way of knockout after 6 rounds. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Lehlohonolo Ledwaba fails to get up as he is counted out after being knocked down by Manny Pacquiao during IBF Super Bantamweight Championship bout at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Pacquiao won the bout by way of knockout after 6 rounds. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Juan Manuel Marquez, from Mexico, right, lands a right to the head of Manny Pacquiao, from the Philippines, during their WBO world welterweight fight Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, in Las Vegas. Marquez won by a knockout. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Juan Manuel Marquez, from Mexico, left, and Manny Pacquiao, from the Philippines, trade blows during their WBO world welterweight fight Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison)
Juan Manuel Marquez, from Mexico, left, knocks down Manny Pacquiao, from the Philippines, in the third round of their WBO world welterweight fight Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison)
Juan Manuel Marquez, left, of Mexico, takes a punch from Manny Pacquiao, of the Philippines, in the 12th round of their WBC super featherweight title match at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, Saturday, March 15, 2008. Pacquiao won by split decision after the 12th round. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
WBC lightweight champion Manny Pacquiao, right, throws a right to the body of Oscar De La Hoya during the second round of their welterweight boxing match in Las Vegas, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
This is a Dec. 6, 2008 file photo showing WBC lightweight champion Manny Pacquiao celebrating his victory over Oscar De La Hoya after their welterweight boxing match in Las Vegas. Pacquiao won by TKO after the end of the 8th round. Pacquiao has been voted fighter of the year by the Boxing Writers Association of America, Tuesday March 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison)
April 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Manny Pacquiao returns to his corner following his fight against Timothy Bradley at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
April 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Timothy Bradley throws a punch as Manny Pacquiao defends at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Filipino boxing fans celebrate after Manny Pacquiao's victory against Timothy Bradley while watching on a live telecast monitor inside a basketball court in Manila April 10, 2016. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco
Boxer Manny Pacquiao poses after working out ahead of his bout with Tim Bradley, in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States, March 30, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Apr 8, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Manny Pacquiao (left) faces off against Timothy Bradley Jr during weigh ins prior to their boxing match at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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Vargas battled back and landed his dangerous right several times but Pacquiao withstood the punishment and by the end of the bout, the American's face was swollen on one side and he had a cut over his right eyebrow.

The Filipino southpaw piled up the points in the later rounds by peppering the title holder with stiff right jabs that set up his quick, punishing left hook.

"I feel happy," said Pacquiao, whose only regret was in not recording his first knockout victory since 2009. "I feel like I could do more but my aim in every round is not to knock him out.

"Thanks to all my fans! Thanks to all the Filipino people!" he added in the ringside interview.

Among the spectators at the Thomas & Mack Center were the currently retired Floyd Mayweather and light-welterweight champion Terence Crawford. Pacquiao lost the richest bout ever to Mayweather last May.

"Next? I'm going back to the Philippines to work in the Senate," Pacquiao said about his immediate plans before being asked about Mayweather or Crawford.

"I don't know, whoever the people wants to fight me. Whoever my promoter gives to me, I will fight."

Vargas described the bout as "a chess match".

"It was interesting for me. We were on our toes trying to catch a big shot. He caught me a couple of times, I caught him a couple of times. It was an entertaining fight," he said.

"It's a good learning experience being against one of the best such as Manny Pacquiao. This automatically elevated my game and I know I have more potential."

Earlier, undefeated 25-year-old Mexican Oscar Valdez Jr (22-0) topped the undercard with a brutal seventh-round stoppage of Japan's Hiroshige Osawa (30-4-4) to retain his WBO featherweight championship.

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