If Manny Pacquiao was going to retire, he would have done it shortly after getting starched by Juan Manuel Marquez last December.
But there's really no reason to retire. A look back at the fourth fight in the series and Pacquiao (54-5-2) had every reason to feel good about his performance—up until the final moments of the fight.
There's little doubt that Marquez (55-6-1) was in the best shape of any of his four fights with Pacquiao. Marquez felt he had to stop Pacquiao because he could not trust putting the fight into the hands of the judges.
Marquez knocked Pacquiao down early with a stiff right, but Pacquiao was undeterred. He came back to register a knockdown of his own in the fifth round, and he was clearly having the best of it in the sixth round until he was knocked out in the final seconds of that round (source: Boxingnewsonline.net).
The knockout itself was the result of a perfect punch by Marquez at a time Pacquiao was no longer respecting his opponent's ability to deliver a classic power punch.
That was Pacquiao's mistake. Had he proceeded in the final with just a tad of caution, he would have gone to his corner with a clear lead in the fight.
The point is that Pacquiao demonstrated in the fourth meeting that he could still fight and still had formidable abilities.
He has not retired, and he does not need to.
However, he needs to come back with at least one very solid fight before the subject of a Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight can be discussed seriously again.
The best fight for Pacquiao to take would be a fifth battle with Marquez. If Pacquiao gets into the ring with the Mexican again, he would have a chance to rescue his legacy (source: ESPN.com).
He would have to register a clear decision or a knockout of his own to get back to the top of the rankings.
Marquez may not be interested in fighting Pacquiao for a fifth time. He got what he wanted in the fourth fight of the series, and there's really little he has to gain by fighting Pacquiao a fifth time.
However, Pacquiao had little to gain by fighting Marquez a fourth time. He basically did Marquez a favor by agreeing to meet Marquez a fourth time.
Doesn't Marquez owe Pacquiao the same opportunity, the same chance for redemption?
Marquez may not see it the same way.
If that happens, Pacquiao should probably turn to Timothy Bradley.
Pacquiao lost a split decision to Bradley last June in a fight that most ringside observers scored in Pacquiao's favor.
While Bradley (29-0-0) has never tasted defeat, he is not an aggressive or offensive-style fighter.
If Pacquiao was forced to fight Bradley, he would need to dominate the fight in order to get back on track.
Pacquiao is one of the two biggest draws in the sport. He demonstrated his skill remained intact in his fourth fight with Marquez.
All he needs to do is eliminate the careless mistake.
If he can win in decisive manner over Marquez or Bradley, his career will be back on track and his legacy will be strong.