Manny Pacquiao is fresh off a decisive victory over Timothy Bradley. Floyd Mayweather Jr. has yet to step into the ring against Marcos Maidana.
Even with both boxers giving fans the fulfillment of watching them in the ring, they are still clamoring for the one match everyone wants to witness—the one that four or five years ago was the only one anyone wanted to see.
But putting it simply, the potential for that long-awaited match is going to continue being just that. No matter how much promotion is done by either side about any future match, fans will always wonder what could have been.
While fans will forever wonder about what they might have been able to behold when the two top fighters in the world stepped into the ring, Michael Wilbon of ESPN notes any hope for that is over, per Pardon the Interruption:
Wilbon: "That ship's sailed. It's gone. There's no more superfight to be had for Pacquiao with Mayweather. It's sad."— PTI (@PTI) April 14, 2014
That doesn't mean talk about a potential match still isn't brewing in the boxing world. While fights against inferior opponents might get fans by, the super fight that passed by will always attract attention.
Pacquiao's manager Bob Arum even brought up the match following the victory over Bradley, per Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:
Arum says he is ready "anytime" to negotiate a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 13, 2014
Regardless of whether or not the two were to step into the ring at this point, it simply wouldn't be the same as if it had happened years ago. Pac-Man has fallen off in the past several years, and even a decisive win over Bradley doesn't wash out the taste of a loss to him from 2012 and being knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez.
At 35 years old, the Filipino boxer is a different boxer than he was years ago, as Mannix points out:
Nice win for Pacquiao. But this version of him can't beat Floyd Mayweather. Just can't.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 13, 2014
As for his next actual match, expect to see Pacquiao set up another fight with Marquez in an attempt to continue proving he has officially returned. No better person to do that against than the same man that left him lifeless on the mat just two years ago.
Mannix gives a look ahead to the possible match along with more thoughts on the Mayweather bout that will never be:
Yup, it’s coming. If Marquez gets past Mike Alvarado next month, Top Rank is ready, willing and able to make a fifth fight between two of boxing’s biggest rivals. Now that Pacquiao has a belt, Marquez will be eager to get in the ring with him; he has made it a priority to become the first Mexican fighter to win titles in five different weight classes.
...And while many will clamor (again) for Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather, forget it. It’s never going to happen, and at this point, it’s probably not a very competitive fight. Pacquiao is still a top-five pound-for-pound fighter, but the gap between Pacquiao and Mayweather has grown the last two years. Mayweather continues to be at the top of his game while Pacquiao has slowed considerably. The window for that fight was 2009 to '12, and that window has closed.
Will the Pacquiao/Mayweather fight ever happen?
With that, the questions about what might have been will still continue. Any hope of seeing Mayweather fall appears to be in the rear-view mirror as well, with Pac-Man simply not the competition that he once was for Mayweather.
Could Pac-Man have finally been the man to end Money Mayweather's undefeated streak?
Might Mayweather have cemented his legacy as one of the greatest ever by knocking off Pacquiao in his prime?
These are questions that will simply never be answered. Rather than fans opining about the one great match that they witnessed with both in their prime, this fight looks more like the one that got away.
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter.