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Speculation surrounds Pacquiao's next move

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.

If Floyd Mayweather Jr. 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."

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