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Will Mayweather be next for Pacquiao?

By Keith Idec

The Record (Hackensack, N. J.)

LAST UPDATED: 9:39 a.m. HST, Nov 15, 2010

ARLINGTON, Texas — Manny Pacquiao left the Dallas area Sunday afternoon knowing three things about his hectic-as-usual schedule.

The boxing superstar/congressman/singer will perform Tuesday at Harrah's in Lake Tahoe, Nev., for a crowd of high-rollers. The tentative plan thereafter includes a similar performance Wednesday in San Jose, Calif.

Then he'll head back to the Philippines, where the national icon has pressing public business to address when Congress there goes back into session. He has little idea who he'll fight next, though.

Ideally, Pacquiao and undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. will meet in a May 7 showdown, probably in Las Vegas, to finally settle the pound-for-pound debate that has raged since their first round of negotiations began nearly a year ago.

Those negotiations ceased in early January because Mayweather demanded random drug testing for a March 13 fight. They didn't fight Saturday night, either, because the enigmatic Mayweather simply decided he didn't want to fight again in 2010 after defeating Shane Mosley very easily May 1 in Las Vegas.

Now that Pacquiao thoroughly thrashed Antonio Margarito early Sunday, HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg and virtually every boxing fan alive hopes a third round of negotiations commences soon. That depends largely on Mayweather, who might opt against fighting again until his legal situation, stemming from September domestic-violence charges, is settled in Las Vegas, where Mayweather lives.

Pacquiao prefers to discuss anything but his long-awaited showdown with the gifted fighter widely viewed as the only threat to Pacquiao's pound-for-pound supremacy. The impossibly polite, perpetually happy eight-division champion got as close as he gets to agitated early Sunday when he was asked repeatedly about meeting Mayweather (41-0, 25 KOs) during the post-fight press conference.

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer, was more than willing to discuss what could become the most lucrative event in boxing history.

"After this great performance (by Pacquiao), Mayweather needs to put up or shut up, or move out of the country," Roach said. "Face it, Manny's way above him at this point. I remember when (Mayweather) was ducking Margarito. If he doesn't fight Manny, now we know this guy should retire."

Mayweather, 33, claims he is the best boxer in the history of the sport. The native of Grand Rapids, Mich., usually uses his unblemished record as evidence that he is better than the likes of "Sugar" Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali and "Sugar" Ray Leonard.

His legacy would be weaker, however, if he doesn't oppose Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KOs) at a time when they're generally regarded as the top two boxers in the world, free to meet at a reasonable, contracted weight. Pacquiao, 31, gave away 5 inches and 17 pounds to Mexico's Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs, 1 NC), yet still systematically battered and embarrassed the besmirched former welterweight champion throughout a 12-round fight that drew a crowd of 41,734 to Cowboys Stadium.

No other fight means more to Pacquiao, either, at least financially. He is expected to walk away from the Margarito match with more than $20 million, once pay-per-view numbers are compiled.

Pacquiao and Mayweather likely would make in excess of $40 million apiece if they fought.

"The Mayweather fight is obviously the fight that everyone wants to see," said Bob Arum, Pacquiao's promoter. "If Mayweather won't do it, there's (a third fight against) Juan Manuel Marquez, there's Mosley. We'll just have to wait and see."

BRIEF: Margarito will have surgery Tuesday to repair a fractured orbital bone around his right eye.

Margarito suffered the injury as he absorbed a brutal beating from Pacquiao. Pacquiao's punches opened a nasty gash underneath Margarito's the eye in the fourth round, and it nearly was swollen shut by the end of the 12-round fight.

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