Not only did Juan Manuel Marquez' right hand send Manny Pacquiao falling to the canvas on Saturday night in Las Vegas, but it also may have KO'd the long-anticipated superfight between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
In the fourth Pacquiao-Marquez installment, neither fighter had a title to risk but both veteran fighters had plenty at stake. At 39 years old, Marquez was looking for his first win over Pacquiao in a series defined by close fights -- previous results included a draw and two narrow wins by decision for Pacquiao. Returning to the ring for the first time since a losing controversial decision to Timothy Bradley, the 33-year-old Pacquiao needed a win to get himself back on track for a potential rendezvous with Floyd. Through the early rounds, Pacquiao fought aggressively and seemed to have gained the upper hand as he closed on Marquez late in the sixth. But the Mexican fighter caught him flush in the face with his right as Pacquiao advanced in the waning moments of that fateful round.
"I knew Manny could knock me out at any time," Marquez told reporters after the bout. "I threw the perfect punch."
Per USA Today, Pacquiao landed 94 total punches while Marquez landed 52. Pacquiao also held the edge in power punches, 68-41. Of course, the only tally that mattered was knockout punches. In that category, Marquez held a 1-0 edge. The "perfect punch" that resulted in the knockout makes what many had believed would be the perfect modern fight far less likely to happen. With two straight losses, Pacquiao must determine if he will even fight again rather than what percentage of the purse he would demand in a potential matchup with Money Mayweather.
"If he is back in the gym and I see signs of him declining I'll tell him to retire, but if I don't see that I won't tell him to retire," Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer, said after the loss to Marquez. "I'd love to get a rematch, but is that the best move right away? Should we try him out in a softer fight first? There is a lot of things we have to think about. It's very complicated, and it's not going to be overnight."
Roach's comments about looking for a "softer fight" than Pacquiao-Marquez V suggests that Pacquiao-Mayweather wouldn't be on tap any time soon even if an agreement between the fighters could be struck. Perhaps even more ominous for those hoping for such a matchup, Mayweather's reaction to Pacquiao's loss struck a more cordial tone than he has previously had when talking about his would-be rival.
"Hopefully he's okay. My prayers go out to the Pacquiao family. I know he loves the sport of boxing, so hopefully he can bounce back, said Mayweather to Fight Hype.
Floyd being Floyd, he couldn't totally resist getting a dig in at Pacquiao.
"I wish Pacquiao nothing but the best. I wish that he can bounce back and he can recoup from this. In the sport of boxing, you have to really dedicate yourself to your craft. I think he's got so many different things on the outside that he worries about, you know," said Mayweather, echoing the view that Pacquiao has too many distractions away from the ring. "But it was a good thing that he was able to come to the sport, you know, piggyback off my name, and get a bunch of endorsements deals and make a good living. That's a great thing."
Even when Nevada State Athletic Commission chief Keith Kizer was saying that a potential Mayweather-Pacquiao fight could produce the "first gate over $20 million," negotiations between the two parties were discordant at best, and even landed in the courts. Still, the lure of a huge payday kept fight fans speculating that the two would eventually meet. But this result may sap interest -- and the financial incentive.
"What once would have been a must-watch fight of the century is now just a potential battle between two very talented boxers, the sort that most sports fans are content to read about the next day rather than watch live," wrote Chris Smith of Forbes.
Is there still interest in the Pacquiao-Mayweather matchup? If not, what will be next for Pacquiao? Another bout with Marquez? Retirement? Count AOL Fanhouse columnist David Steele among those who think that Pacquiao should hang up his gloves and devote himself fully to the many other pursuits in his life.
"The next step should be to end his career. Unless he’s eager to follow the post-ugly-KO path of, say, Roy Jones, Jr., or the hang-on-way-too-long example of Evander Holyfield, wrote Steele. "Those are just examples. It’s boxing. No fighter has ever left the game right on time."
Will Pacquiao, or perhaps Mayweather, be able to buck that trend?
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