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Manny Pacquiao heard from the MGM Grand crowd a unified sound rarely belted at his boxing matches.

Author Greg Bishop. Published on May 21, 2011 - 3:27 am (1298 views — 1005 words)

LAS VEGAS — For much of his welterweight title defense on Saturday, Manny Pacquiao heard from the MGM Grand crowd a unified sound rarely belted at his boxing matches. As Pacquiao and Shane Mosley tapped gloves, made small talk and generally engaged in a glorified sparring session, the crowd, once rowdy, once standing, once into it, simply booed.

When it ended, Pacquiao (53-3-2), the winner by unanimous decision, hung his head in victory. He did not look happy. Neither did the crowd.

Pacquiao counts "I want to entertain the fans" among his favorite phrases, and for much of the bout, he tried. He knocked down Mosley (46-7-1-1) in the third round and stalked him throughout. But this felt more like a first date than a typical night featuring Pacquiao's furious fists. He retained his World Boxing Organization belt, but without the usual panache.

As the decision was announced, his wife smiled nervously on the arena big screen. Even Gus Johnson, perhaps broadcasting's most excitable announcer, shrugged and shook his head as he walked from his front-row seat.

"We tried our best," Pacquiao said. "We both tried our best."

The signs of the fight's pacing and style came early, perhaps as early as the sixth round, when someone in Mosley's corner yelled, "He's not your friend, Shane!" Still, Mosley continued to engage far less than expected. Of course, Pacquiao tends to have that effect on opponents. To engage is to walk willingly into the fastest hands in boxing, which, by the end of the sixth round, had swollen Mosley's face.

In Round 10, Mosley registered his own knockdown, which appeared on replay more like a push. This actually qualified as action. Mosley spent much of the final two rounds pedaling backward like an N.F.L. cornerback. Ultimately, the event again begged an answer to boxing's most important question: when, if ever, will Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight?

"I don't care," Pacquiao said. "I'm satisfied with what I've done in boxing. I want to fight Mayweather because the people want it."

Afterward, Mosley agreed he had taken too few risks. He said he had never planned to be aggressive. He also said a blood blister opened on his foot.

Pacquiao said his legs had tightened in the fourth round, which he described as a problem throughout training camp. This hampered his movement and leverage. Given that, his trainer, Freddie Roach, labeled his performance as "gutsy."

Mosley also tossed compliments at his opponent, while declining to address his thoughts on retirement. "I just fought the best fighter in the world," he said. "He has power, exceptional power, that I've never been hit with before."

Before the action, Pacquiao greeted Senator Harry Reid and the entrepreneur Steve Wynn in his dressing room, multitasking right up until the fight. He entered to the theme song from "Rocky" before an audience of 16,412, which included Tyrese, Jamie Foxx and Paris Hilton. Mosley sauntered in first, to LL Cool J's hit song "Mama Said Knock You Out."

Despite the inaction early, Pacquiao kept stalking, kept charging, kept chasing Mosley around the ring. Late in the third round, he blitzed Mosley, landing a right hand, then a straight left that dropped Mosley to the canvas. The crowd, sensing a knockout, rose to its feet. Mosley looked dazed afterward, and stumbled back to his corner, limping.

At the start of the fourth round, Mosley appeared confused. Pacquiao continued his assault, overwhelming his older, slower opponent with typical speed and precision, when possible at least. Mosley's corner implored him to go forward, but he seemed simply overmatched.

Earlier Saturday, Pacquiao was involved in a fender bender, as first reported by TMZ and confirmed later by his camp. Those close to him described the accident as minor and Pacquiao as unharmed. But Pacquiao is extremely habitual by nature. He fights on the same days, follows the same routines and makes no secret of his superstitions. Even a missed meal makes him grumpy.

Thus the question lingered. Would this disruption, however minor, affect his mind-set? (No.)

In recent months, Pacquiao served in Congress in the Philippines, collaborated with the singer-songwriter Dan Hill on seven versions of Hill's "Sometimes When We Touch," visited Washington for the first time and met President Barack Obama. Basically, a normal month.

On Saturday, he returned to what he does best, annihilating foes inside a boxing ring, perhaps better than any current fighter on the planet. For this fight, Pacquiao received $20 million guaranteed; Mosley, $5 million.

The promotion lacked the usual, often manufactured, boxing animosity, as if the fighters were competing to win dual Mr. Congeniality awards. On Friday, after Pacquiao weighed in at 145 pounds and Mosley tipped the scale at 147, they even hugged.

Their boxing bromance stood in stark contrast to the action expected in the ring. In Pacquiao's last fight, a battering of Antonio Margarito last November, he threw more than 1,000 punches, according to CompuBox. In four of his last five fights, Pacquiao bludgeoned Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Joshua Clottey and Margarito, none of whom have fought since.

On Wednesday, Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank Boxing, noted that Margarito had been told "by a number of doctors he will never be able to fight again," a result of the still-not-healed orbital bone Pacquiao had fractured. "Look at the careers he ended," Arum said.

Will Mosley be next in line? He did not say. But Saturday marked his third straight lackluster fight. He started his career with 38 wins. His record since: 8-7-1-1.

News from Pacquiao's training camp helped make Mosley an underdog in the 7:1 to 9:1 range. Roach declared the camp Pacquiao's best ever. Roach said Pacquiao had never been in better shape.

Early into fight week, word leaked that Pacquiao planned to fight Juan Manuel Marquez for the third time in his next contest. Yet afterward, Arum said, "Nobody is going to beat this guy." So why not put him against Mayweather, the other candidate for best boxer on the planet?