As Manny Pacquiao prepares for his fourth battle with Juan Manuel Marquez, the shadow of Floyd Mayweather looms over the fight. It will remain in place for every Pac-Man bout unless the two boxing superstars finally meet.
Pacquiao and Marquez have created a terrific rivalry, and a potential rematch with Timothy Bradley remains after a controversial decision back in June. But the fight everybody wants to see is still Pacquiao trying to end Mayweather's undefeated run.
It's unavoidable. At every turn, Pacquiao is asked questions about why the two haven't already met and if there's any chance of it happening in the near future. It's an endless cycle of questions about a situation that has shown few signs of progress recently.
To his credit, the Filipino sensation has stepped up to the plate. Dan Rafael of ESPN.com passed along comments from him back in September about his willingness to make compromises to set up a potential super fight before it's too late:
"I'm waiting for that fight to happen," said Pacquiao, boxing's only eight-division world champion. "I don't know what's the reason why that fight has not happened (...) It's okay for me if he gets a higher percentage than me."
Yet the questions continue to pop up. Instead of making any type of definitive statement about what's going to happen, both camps continue to hold the fans hostage and force them to accept inferior bouts to get their boxing fix.
So while Pacquiao would love to focus solely on Marquez, who he's never scored a clear, concise victory over in three previous meetings, the Mayweather situation won't go away.
It adds even more pressure to Pac-Man's shoulders as he gets set to face a savvy veteran opponent. He must be careful because a loss would throw another wrench into any plans for a super fight since it would give Mayweather even more leverage.
The key for Pacquiao will be finding a way to land more combinations. Marquez's ability to defend those has been the main reason he's kept it close every time, and his game plan will remain the same. Mayweather would employ a similar one if he met Pac-Man.
And that really sums up the entire situation. No matter what angle you examine the Marquez fight from, somehow it always works its way back to Pacquiao and Mayweather.
It's definitely a distraction, even if Pac-Man doesn't want to say it is.