LAS VEGAS — Manny Pacquiao returned to his corner before the 12th round to an unfamiliar soundtrack of steady boos rising from the MGM Grand Garden crowd.
The fans weren’t jeering their beloved Filipino congressman. They were incensed that Sugar Shane Mosley apparently was scared to fight him.
“I told him in the last round, ‘You’ve got to knock this guy out, because it’s embarrassing,'” Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach said. “He told me, ‘Coach, I’m trying, I’m trying.'”
Mosley was in full retreat from the opening round against Pacquiao, backpedaling and scrambling simply to avoid getting knocked out.
Pacquiao, who won his 14th straight fight by lopsided unanimous decision, has seen this embarrassing strategy before. Most everybody agrees Floyd Mayweather Jr. has been dodging Pacquiao for the past year, only outside the ring.
If Mayweather declines another chance to fight Pacquiao in the most anticipated matchup in boxing, Pacquiao will keep busy with his congressional duties until his next fight in early November — yet even his promoter acknowledges it’s tough to imagine any opponent but Mayweather posing problems for Pacquiao.
“The problem is, and this is becoming a pattern, Manny doesn’t allow any opponent to fight his fight,” Bob Arum said. “He takes every opponent out of his fight because of his speed and power. You’ve got to understand what you’re watching now. You’re watching a phenomenon, the greatest fighter that I’ve ever seen. Nobody can compete with him. He’ll take every fighter out of his game, every single one.”
Pacquiao’s native Philippines grinded to a halt Sunday, with fans watching everywhere from crowded jails to public plazas fitted with huge screens as Pacquiao flummoxed Mosley, who embarrassed himself in what’s probably the last megafight of his decorated 18-year career.
Pacquiao knocked him down in the third round and never stopped chasing him, but Mosley survived on his feet and even got credit for a bogus knockdown in the 10th. Roach said Mosley tarnished his legacy.
“He backpedaled the whole night,” Roach said. “He never took one step forward to try to press the action. His jab is in mothballs. I never saw it. His legs are gone. It wasn’t shocking, but I expected more. I like Shane, he’s a nice guy, but he’d better quit before he gets hurt.”
Roach also wasn’t happy with the fight’s collegial vibe, which included touching gloves before every round — something usually saved for sparring sessions — and hugging before the 12th.
“Why are you touching gloves? Is he your friend?” Roach asked his fighter. “I hate that. You’re supposed to be trying to knock this guy out.”
The atmosphere likely won’t be so friendly in Pacquiao’s next fight. The three main candidates for Pacquiao’s next bout haven’t usually been the hugging types.
A third fight with Mexican star Juan Manuel Marquez apparently is Arum’s first choice, fulfilling the dreams of fans who thoroughly enjoyed their 2004 draw and 2008 split-decision win for Pacquiao. If Marquez doesn’t like the deal, Arum will turn to bruising 140-pound champ Timothy Bradley or veteran Zab Judah, who would both welcome the chance to be on the sport’s biggest stage.
Roach would prefer to fight Mayweather, believing it’s the most intriguing matchup and the most lucrative opportunity for a fighter who says he’s likely to retire after a few more big bouts, although Roach believes Pacquiao could fight into the deep end of his 30s.
But if Mayweather still won’t answer Pacquiao’s calls, Roach hopes they’ll face Marquez.
“All I hear from him and Nacho [Beristain, Marquez’s trainer] is how they got robbed,” Roach said. “I’d like that fight one more time, see how much they’ve both changed since that time. I think we’ve gotten a lot better.”
A meeting with Bradley, the two-belt champion from Palm Springs, Calif., would be a brutally physical bout against a fighter with a reputation — deserved or not — for throwing elbows and head-butts.
“It’s not an easy fight for Manny, but I feel [Bradley] is just not big enough,” Roach said. “He would need a miracle.”
Roach said Pacquiao could meet Bradley or Marquez at a catch weight around 144 pounds, but Pacquiao doesn’t want to get much smaller than that. Roach also wouldn’t put Pacquiao in against British 140-pound champion Amir Khan, saying Khan “is getting better, but he’s not at that level yet. Manny would be too much, too soon.”
Yet the discussion always comes back to Mayweather, who’s facing many more upcoming court dates than fight dates as he whiles away his mid-30s in his Las Vegas mansion, trashing Pacquiao on Twitter and gambling heavily on sports.
Pacquiao has won eight fights since the end of 2007, beating an array of quality fighters and veteran greats from Oscar De La Hoya to Marquez and Miguel Cotto. Mayweather has fought just twice in that time, enjoying a brief retirement before beating Marquez and dominating Mosley on May 1, 2010.
“There isn’t a day in my life that goes by that somebody doesn’t ask me about that fight,” Roach said. “People say, ‘Make that fight.’ I wish I could.”
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