The end was dissatisfying, a deflating finish to a highly anticipated event. A Manny Pacquiao victory over Juan Manuel Marquez was supposed to provide closure for one of boxing's most closely contested trilogies. Yet Pacquiao's majority decision win (two judges gave him the nod; one called it a draw) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas last Saturday night raised more questions than it answered. "People asked me, 'Why aren't you celebrating?' said Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach. "Celebrate what? We won, but this guy still has our number."
Counterpunchers are Pacquiao's kryptonite, and the 38-year-old Marquez is one of the best. When Pacquiao jabbed, Marquez jabbed back. When Pacquiao loaded up for a big shot, Marquez frequently beat him to it. When Pacquiao rushed in with a trademark flurry, Marquez often answered with one of his own. If there is a playbook on Pacquiao, Marquez has mastered it. "He dictates where he wants Manny to go," says Roach. "No other fighter can do that."
Not even, say, Floyd Mayweather? Mayweather is a bigger, faster, stronger version of Marquez. For all the talk of the purse split, drug testing and venue holding up a Pacquiao-Mayweather megafight, there's one other issue to consider: Is Pacquiao ready for Mayweather? Roach admits there are concerns. For years he has tinkered with Pacquiao's footwork, trying to break him of a habit of walking into straight shots. But there was Pacquiao on Saturday, repeatedly stepping into the path of Marquez's right. "I kept saying, 'Manny, what the f--- are you doing?'" says Roach. "It just wasn't the Manny Pacquiao that I know."
Roach floated the idea of a tune-up fight, though fighters who make north of $20 million a night and have a clock on their careers (Pacquiao, 32, plans on running for governor of Sarangani province in 2013) don't usually get the luxury of a soft touch. More likely, Pacquiao will be back in the ring with Marquez next May, tabling (yet again) a Mayweather superfight to try to finish one that never seems to end.