Pacquiao’s best, even when not at his best

LAS VEGAS – This is how good Manny Pacquiao has become: His legs were cramping, he wasn’t on top of his game and he still nearly shut out Shane Mosley.

Pacquiao, who was once dismissed as a small fighter, knocked Mosley down hard in the third round and sent the one-time pound-for-pound king scurrying around the ring for most of the rest of the fight, unwilling to engage.

It was far from a scintillating performance and the crowd booed frequently in the second half of the fight. Pacquiao, though, has improved to such a degree that even when he has an off night, he blows guys out. Pacquiao won by scores of 120-107, 120-108 and 119-108 on Saturday before a sellout crowd of 16,412 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Pacquiao wasn’t thrilled that Mosley didn’t stand and engage. That left him with cramped legs trying to chase Mosley and resulted in the rare less-than-entertaining Pacquiao bout.

“I’ll tell you the truth: I was expecting him to fight with me at least five rounds of the 12 rounds toe-to-toe with me so that we could test our power, our stamina,” Pacquiao said before heading across the street to Mandalay Bay to perform a concert. “But what could I do if my opponent doesn’t want to fight toe-to-toe? It’s not my fault.

“I’m happy, because I know I won the fight. But I said my first concern is the satisfaction of the people. I want the people to be satisfied with my performance and to leave happy.”

No one who was expecting a great fight could have been happy, whether they bought tickets or plunked down the money for the pay-per-view. It was a low-drama, low-action match and the outcome wasn’t in doubt over the final 10 rounds.

Mosley, who said after the fight that “this could be it” for his superlative career, said he was shocked by Pacquiao’s punching power. He said before the fight that he wasn’t fighting a small guy and Pacquiao’s power proved that.

But Pacquiao throws with such little effort that it often doesn’t seem like it’s a dangerous blow until it lands.

“Manny Pacquiao has the type of power I had to watch out for,” Mosley said. “Usually, I can go in there and punch with guys, but it seemed like he had something a little different. I had to watch out.

“There were different punches that he threw that didn’t seem to be hard, but the impact definitely was hard. I really had to watch out for those particular shots he threw. Like I said, Manny is a great fighter and he threw some great punches.”

Mosley’s plan was to work off the angles and try to counter Pacquiao, but Mosley was unable to get off. He looked like a fighter within sight of his 40th birthday and didn’t have the speed and explosiveness that was such a big part of his game earlier in his career.

Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach said Mosley also didn’t appear to have the desire for combat that he displayed for most of his career.

“I don’t think he tried to win the fight,” Roach said. “He just tried to survive. When you get to that point in boxing, it’s time to call it a day.”

Pacquiao is so good that he’s lapped the field a second time and is almost making his fights anticlimactic. Top Rank’s Bob Arum said he will submit a new offer to the management team of lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez. Golden Boy has the right to match the offer and if Golden Boy matches, it would pit Marquez against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.

If Golden Boy does that, Arum said he’d offer a Pacquiao bout, tentatively slated for Nov. 12 in Las Vegas, to one of two super lightweight champions, Timothy Bradley or Zab Judah. But as great as they are, it’s hard to imagine either being able to do much against this fighting machine.

Arum, though, isn’t afraid that he’ll lose pay-per-view sales even though Pacquiao’s fights have become predictably one-sided.

“People will pay to see Manny Pacquiao,” Arum said. “Because he is not dull. He is the aggressor. He is an entertaining fighter. I believe most people who saw the fight bought it not with the expectation that Shane Mosley would win. They bought the Margarito fight, not because they thought Margarito would win, but because they wanted to be entertained by Manny Pacquiao.”

Even Pacquiao had difficulty being entertaining given the circumstances on Saturday. Mosley was given a knockdown in the 10th when he hurled Pacquiao to the canvas. Referee Kenny Bayless ruled it a knockdown in favor of Mosley, but later apologized to Pacquiao for it.

Pacquiao was angered by it and he went hard after Mosley looking for the finish.

“I got a little angry,” Pacquiao said.

It’s too bad that he didn’t get angry earlier. He spent much of the night touching gloves with Mosley in a display of sportsmanship that didn’t do much for those who were looking for action.

Even when he’s not firing on all cylinders, Pacquiao is far better than the rest of the field. There aren’t a lot of guys around his weight who he could fight, particularly if Floyd Mayweather Jr. continues to be more interested in watching Lady Gaga than he is in boxing.

Arum said he wouldn’t rule out a bout with middleweight champ Sergio Martinez, though he is wary of it because by fight time, Martinez might weigh nearly 30 pounds more.

“I still think Manny would beat him, but it’s not fair to ask him to give up that much weight,” Arum said.

It’s also not fair, though, to ask mere mortals to get into the ring with Pacquiao. If Mayweather doesn’t take the challenge – and he’s showing no inclination he wants to do so – we might be in for a long string of these one-sided routs.

Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, May 8, 2011