LAS VEGAS — By now the routine is a familiar one for Manny Pacquiao.
Twice a year he leaves his native Philippines – where he doubles as a congressman – to train with Freddie Roach in a Los Angeles gym. He goes on Jimmy Kimmel Live to croon a tune or two, then heads to this gambling city.
Come fight night, high rollers and celebrities will jostle for the best seats ringside on the glittering Las Vegas Strip. Back home, a nation will watch and wait.
And, as always, he’ll fight someone not named Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The routine won’t change this time. A week from Saturday, Pacquiao will get in the ring with Juan Manuel Marquez, a fine Mexican lightweight who is probably the closest thing to an actual rival that Pacquiao has faced.
Still, it’s not the fight that fans really want to see. It’s not the fight fans deserve to see.
It’s also not Pacquiao’s fault.
He wants to match skills with the fighter who claims to be one of the best ever. He welcomes the opportunity to make $40 million or so in what would be boxing’s richest fight ever.
When it comes to negotiations, though, no one is answering the phone at Money Mayweather’s world headquarters.
“Why isn’t that fight happening?” promoter Bob Arum asked Wednesday. “Because Floyd knows he’s going to get beat.”
That’s the prevailing theory in the Pacquiao camp, anyway. No reason for Mayweather to fight Pacquiao, they believe, when he can make $25 million or so for fighting guys like Ortiz when his schedule permits.
Just what Mayweather thinks is hard to say. He couldn’t be reached Wednesday and his manager, Leonard Ellerbe, promised to return a call but didn’t.
Mayweather, though, claimed before fighting Ortiz in September that he was more than willing to fight Pacquiao, as long as there was Olympic-style drug testing for both.
“I’m not ducking and dodging,” Mayweather said. “I’m not hiding from any opponent. If you’re the best, take the test and it will happen.”
It’s a line Mayweather keeps repeating. It’s also a line he should retire.
Because Pacquiao is willing to take the test. Anytime and anywhere.
The first order of business for Pacquiao is beating Marquez. He knocked Marquez down three times in the first round when they met seven years ago at 125 pounds, only to barely escape with a controversial draw. In their rematch at 130 pounds in 2008, he won a split decision by the narrowest of margins.
The rubber match will be at 144 pounds, which should be an advantage for Pacquiao because he has been campaigning as a welterweight in his past four fights while Marquez has fought only once above 140 pounds in a losing effort to Mayweather.
Pacquiao should be able to get by Marquez, but that doesn’t mean a Mayweather fight will be any closer to happening. It might never happen, because Pacquiao’s current plans are to fight into 2013 and retire after 18 years as a pro.
In a sport where common sense doesn’t always prevail, though, maybe it’s time to stop worrying about who Pacquiao hasn’t fought and appreciate who he is.