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Pac Mentality

Manny Pacquiao again proved he's the best, but why aren't his handlers finding qualified opponents?

This isn't a criticism of Manny Pacquiao, who once again proved he is the best fighter in the sport. Last Saturday night at a sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Pacquiao submitted yet another superior performance, outpointing Shane Mosley in a lopsided decision. It was bell-to-bell brilliance from Pacquiao, who put Mosley down in the third round and rattled him in several more.

"He has exceptional power, power I have never been hit with before," said Mosley.

This is a criticism of Team Pacquiao, the collection of promoters, managers and matchmakers who line up these candlepins and cackle as Pacquiao bowls them over. They resuscitated Mosley for this fight, brushing aside questions about his age (39) and fast-fading skills, only to watch in horror as Mosley hopped right back into his grave. For 36 uninspired minutes the once fearsome fighter played peekaboo with Pacquiao, scampering around the ring, refusing to engage. When the final bell rang Pacquiao didn't stand for a traditional embrace; he simply turned and walked away. "I thought his focus was to fight toe-to-toe with me," said Pacquiao, "but he ran."

It was a sadly predictable outcome. Mosley hasn't won a fight in more than two years and looked shot in his last two. He was brought in for his pedigree and his name to provide Showtime's Fight Camp360° reality show with an English-speaking, identifiable star who would be attractive to CBS, which aired three of the four documentary-style episodes leading up to the fight. Mosley was handpicked ahead of Juan Manuel Màrquez, an opponent who can walk the walk—he fought Pacquiao to a draw in 2004 and lost a narrow decision in '08—but doesn't talk the talk. Not in the right language, anyway.

And this trend could continue. Pacquiao's promoters won't wait for Floyd Mayweather ("He has our number," says Bob Arum) and plan on making his next deal quickly. They have extended an offer to Màrquez, though his former promoter, Golden Boy, has the right to scrub the deal by matching the money in a fight with Saul Alvarez. Arum says Timothy Bradley and Zab Judah are next on the list, which is where things get iffy. Bradley is a 140-pound champion with a questionable chin while Judah is a faded ex--welterweight champ who, says Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, "fights for four rounds and then quits."

For his part, Arum won't consider qualified candidates such as Victor Ortiz or Amir Khan because of their connection to archrival Golden Boy. That decision is shortsighted. See, Pacquiao isn't long for boxing. He's an überpopular congressman in the Philippines who has a potential future as that country's president. He should spend what time he has left in his boxing career fighting the best, not just those who are trying play the part.

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SHORT JABS

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The success of Manny Pacquiao's union with Showtime/CBS won't be known until the pay-per-view buys are counted. But regardless of the number—industry sources say 1.5 million buys will be a good indication that the additional promotion on broadcast television had an impact—Top Rank's Bob Arum won't commit Pacquiao to the network long term. Arum says he will open up the bidding for Pacquaio's next fight, which will be in November, and he hopes that HBO will submit an offer that includes guarantees to promote the fight on TNT and TBS, which are also part of the Time Warner empire. "It's not a question of money," says Arum. "It's whoever brings the most assets. We are no longer satisfied to be put in a closet and limited by one premium channel's assets."

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ROBERT BECK

SLOW GOING Mosley (left), who hasn't won a fight in two years, was the latest fighter unable to keep up with Pacquiao.

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ROBERT BECK