The first thing Manny Pacquiao has to do is figure out if he wants to come back to boxing and resurrect his career.
Not what his fans want him to do. Not what Bob Arum or Freddie Roach want him to do. Not even what his wife, Jinkee, or his mother, Dionisia, want him to do.
Pacquiao has to be honest with himself and figure out what he wants to do. He should only come back if he loves boxing and he wants to return; the sport is too difficult if he's not motivated by his own desire and hunger.
Chances are that Pacquiao does want to come back for the right reason. He never would have achieved as much as he already has if he didn't love getting in the ring and using his skills to get the best of his opponent.
So, he's going to need some time to recover from the brutal sixth-round knockout he suffered at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez Dec. 8.
In some ways, the punch that dropped him to the canvas in the third round is more troubling than the knockout blow he took in the sixth. The punch in the third round was an overhand right that Marquez basically wound up to throw. Pacquiao should have seen it coming and been able to get out of the way or deflect it.
The sixth-round knockout punch may have been one of those rare freak occurrences in boxing. Pacquiao had knocked Marquez down in the fifth round and gotten the better of it in the sixth. In the final seconds, he decided to wade in and look for the knockout shot himself.
As he did that, he go caught in no man's land. Just as Pacquiao moved a half-step closer, Marquez unloaded his brutal right hand, landed it on Pacquiao's chin and knocked him out cold.
The punch was a stunner, but it also has to be an indicator to Pacquiao that he must make subtle but important stylistic changes when he gets back in the ring again.
Pacquiao will be 34 when he decides to return to the ring, and he is no longer as quick or athletic as he once was.
He now has to realize that if he does not fight with defense as one of his key elements, he could get tagged again.
It's a subtle change that Pacquiao can make. He used a lot of head movement in his last fight and he has to continue using that tactic moving forward. However, he must respect his opponent's power and look to pile up points when the openings present themselves.
Had Pacquiao taken a step back in the final seconds of the sixth round instead of moving forward, he could have avoided the punch or been hit with a glancing blow. He was moving in, but he did not have a clear angle to deliver a shot that could have delivered similar damage to Marquez.
He put himself in a risky position and could not have gotten rewarded for it. He needs to manage his risk a lot better than he did at that moment.
Pacquiao has always fought with fury and speed. Those are not bad things, but he has to consider all the alternatives at this point.
It doesn't mean that he will be a passive fighter, but it does mean he has to respect his opponent more than he has in the past.
Pac-Man has to be more opportunistic and take advantage of mistakes. He can't just press the issue and bull forward. Had he adopted a more strategic approach against Marquez, then he could have piled up the points and gone for the knockout two or three rounds later when Marquez was weakened.
Pacquiao has a cunning strategist in Freddie Roach in his corner.
The time has come for the Hall of Fame trainer and boxer to make subtle but significant changes to their fight plans.