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Mayweather vs. Pacquiao: Does boxing’s ultimate fight have a second wind?

Juan Manuel Marquez or Mike Alvarado is Pacquiao’s most likely next opponent, but Mayweather lurks

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Steve Marcus

Manny Pacquiao heads to his corner between rounds of his title fight against Timothy Bradley at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, April 12, 2014. Pacquiao won a unanimous decision.

Pacquiao vs. Bradley II Main Event

Manny Pacquiao hits undefeated WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley with a right during their title fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, April 12, 2014. Launch slideshow »

Pacquiao vs. Bradley II Undercards

Sweat flies as Bryan Vasquez, left, and Jose Felix trade punches during their WBA interim super featherweight fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday, April 12, 2014. Launch slideshow »

A brawny Filipino fight fan puffed his shoulders, raised his hands to his mouth and bellowed a chant that echoed off the walls of the bottlenecked MGM Grand Garden Arena lobby Saturday night.

A man clothed in a Manny Pacquiao jacket and another with a Philippines flag draped around his neck immediately joined in. A few seconds later, a horde of Pacquiao fans celebrating his unanimous-decision victory (118-110, 116-112, 116-112) over Tim Bradley were reciting the same three words in unison.

“We want Floyd,” the crowd exclaimed for a few seconds. “We want Floyd.”

As much as Pacquiao’s promoter, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, dismisses Floyd Mayweather Jr., the undefeated fighter remains the only challenge fans are demanding.

The post-fight chatter Saturday was a call back to years past, from 2008 to 2011, before Pacquiao ever snapped his 15-fight win streak with two straight losses. It centered exclusively on Mayweather, and whether the two best fighters of this generation will ever share the ring.

“How many years, days, months have we talked about that happening?” Pacquiao said. “Like I said, my line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week if he wants to fight.”

Pacquiao refused to take any further initiative, however, and deferred a follow-up question to Arum. He emphasized that any decision on his future would ultimately fall to Arum.

Like an inexperienced fighter putting his hands down against a wily veteran, boxing enthusiasts know where that’s headed — crashing to the ground. Mayweather won’t do business with Arum. And Arum isn’t going out of his way to work with Mayweather, who next fights in three weeks against Marcos Maidana at the MGM, either.

“The only people that can make Floyd Mayweather fight Manny is the public if they boycott the nonsense on May 3,” Arum said. “That’s when the fight will happen without any precondition on either side. If you want (a Pacquiao) fight, don’t buy (Maidana) on pay-per-view and don’t buy tickets for it.”

Mayweather is not at the front of Arum’s mind for the 35-year-old Pacquiao’s next opponent. Arum said a meeting with the winner of a May 17 bout between Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado at The Forum in Los Angeles had “been talked about” already with Pacquiao.

Pacquiao’s camp is clearly behind the idea of a fifth fight against Marquez, who won the fourth via knockout in December 2012, as it was the first possibility mentioned by longtime trainer Freddie Roach.

“Marquez is a big fight for us,” Roach said. “If Marquez wins his next fight, I’d like that one because we owe him one.”

Roach went on to say Mayweather was interesting to him. But the Marquez vs. Alvarado winner is the major favorite.

The bout is so strongly linked to the Saturday’s fight that the loser facing Bradley was also discussed. Bradley spoke little on his future after the first loss of his career but showed he had one position that mirrored that of everyone else who follows the sport.

Bradley answered “of course” when asked whether he thought Mayweather vs. Pacquiao should come to fruition, but then he proceeded to toe the company line.

“The boxing world wants to see that, but that’s their quarrel,” Bradley said. “I don’t really want to comment too much on it.”

A bout between Mayweather and Pacquiao will never be as grandiose as it could have been five or six years ago. Although Mayweather stayed undefeated, Pacquiao’s two losses tempered enthusiasm for a while.

Even after getting back on the winning track, Pacquiao looks removed from his peak. He hasn’t knocked anyone out in nearly five years. Roach was pleased with the performance against Bradley but admitted Pacquiao wasn’t as speedy or ferocious as he was in wins over the likes of Oscar De La Hoya and Miguel Cotto.

Mayweather vs. Pacquiao could still shatter any standing boxing record. It’s just as hard as ever to say whether it will ever be given the chance.

“We’ve been over this a million times,” Arum concluded. “The lines are open. If he wants a fight, then sit down like a normal human being at a conference table and negotiate a freaking deal.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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