It's not that a Pacquiao vs. Mayweather fight wouldn't be a good bout (although we're dangerously flirting with that point), because it would. But at this point, Pacquiao has not done enough to earn a shot at Mayweather.
Even Pacquiao's dominant showing against Rios left much to be desired. Make no mistake, Pacquiao was in full control as both HBO and ESPN clearly document:
Apologies for the resend - Pacquiao landed 281 total punches, 241 of which were to the HEAD #PacRios— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 24, 2013
But Pacquiao didn't go for the kill. Rios was developing basketballs on both sides of his head, could hardly see out of his eyes and had the pay-per-view announcers questioning why the fight had not been called.
Yet Pacquiao was content to dance in cruise control until the final bell.
Fine. A younger Pacquiao may have gone for the finishing blow. We'll chalk it up to the legendary star being wiser at his age rather than timid after suffering a recent knockout.
What does Pacquiao's next fight ultimately boil down to above all else? Money, of course.
Obviously a bout with Mayweather would reel in historic cash, but the well-documented struggles to make the fight happen still persist. Bradley has been on a roll as of late and most recently won a bout with Marquez, but he remains a relatively small draw and unknown name.
That leaves Marquez, a man who shares plenty of history with Pacquiao.
He's also the man to recently knock Pacquiao out.
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated agrees with the notion the fight should be made:
Don't be surprised to see Pacquiao-Marquez V next. Biggest (makable) money fight out there for both.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) November 24, 2013
So does Pacquiao, who immediately told reporters via ESPN after being knocked out last time that "If you give us a chance, we'll fight again. I was just starting to feel confident and then I got careless."
Whom should Pacquiao fight next?
Now Pacquiao has his chance to make the rematch a reality. After an extended break, an emphatic win (over a perfectly picked opponent with an aggressive style) and the attention of the boxing world once more, Pacquiao can make just about any fight, save one.
If fans had to choose what fight they wanted to see second behind the obvious, it would surely be a fifth bout between Pacquiao and Marquez—if not only because of the last fight's shocking ending.
Fans know it as well as both fighters' camps—the bout with Rios was a way to get Pacquiao back to speed and break a losing skid. A fight with Marquez, someone who knows Pac-Man all too well, would present a serious challenge.
Pacquiao clearly has something to prove. The most recognizable face he can dance with at this point is Marquez.
Should Pacquiao obtain revenge over Marquez in their fifth meeting, only then can we start talking about a Pacquiao-Mayweather showdown again.