Manny Pacquiao kneels in his corner after his WBO welterweight fight with… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
Reporting from Las Vegas -- This was not the look of victory; it was the despair of lost mystique.
Yes, Las Vegas judges Glenn Trowbridge and Dave Moretti delivered Manny Pacquiao a crowd-stunning majority-decision victory over Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
But Pacquiao's reactions spoke of something different.
PHOTOS: Pacquiao vs. Marquez
While Marquez, 38, briefly basked in the celebration of an apparent triumph after the 12th round, lifting his right fist to the air as if to forever puncture the cloud of close-call shortcomings versus Pacquiao, the Filipino superstar retreated to his corner to kneel and pray.
By executing a superior counterpunching display that defused Pacquiao's aggressive style and subjected the welterweight world champion to a routine of punches in the face, Marquez accomplished so much.
He gained a measure of redemption, revenge and was at his best on his biggest stage yet.
Marquez wasn't around to see it, but Pacquiao revealed the hollowness of his 15th consecutive "victory," showing up at his postfight news conference as a beaten man.
It wasn't because of the discomfort of 28 stitches to close the three-level cut he suffered in a 10th-round head butt.
It was because he failed to please his fans, because he was subjected to a chorus of boos in the arena after being awarded the victory and because he again couldn't figure out Marquez.
"He's always backing off and waiting for me to create action," Pacquiao said. "And when I do, he counters. It's not easy to create action with him waiting for a good shot."
Pacquiao was asked whether he was disappointed in himself. Had he failed to follow the fight plan?
"No, I'm not disappointed," Pacquiao said, his handlers trying to get him off the stage rapidly. "It's just my feet."
Trainer Freddie Roach said Pacquiao complained of cramping in his feet, situation for which Roach vows to find a solution.
Now Pacquiao has to figure out something else complex: What to do next.
It took all of a few minutes for Bob Arum, Pacquiao's promoter, to admit Marquez was entitled to a rematch in May. After getting as much as $10 million for this bout — depending on pay-per-view income — Marquez is positioned to get at least that again.
But does Pacquiao really want any part of Marquez again after three tight fights?
Oscar De La Hoya, who helps promote unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr., said the time has come for Pacquiao to be more assertive in choosing his path, not leaving it entirely up to his promoter.
"My advice to Manny is, 'You're the fighter. You're the boss. You call the shots,' " De La Hoya said. "If Manny wants Floyd, there's nothing from stopping that fight from happening.
"Pacquiao fights for the people and the people want him to step up and fight Mayweather."
Arum said it's "absolutely" Pacquiao's right to decide his next step. Pacquiao said late Saturday that Marquez deserves a rematch.
"I'm happy about my performance, but I don't know what I need to do to change the minds of the judges," Marquez said after the fight. "I'll sit down with my family and make a decision about continuing in this sport or simply retire.
"I really believe I have to drop [Pacquiao], but even if I drop him, I get the feeling they'll stand him back up and give him the fight again. I am very frustrated right now."
Ignacio Beristain, Marquez's trainer, called the decision "a joke."
The debt to Marquez for one more Pacquiao fight is substantial.
But De La Hoya says the Mayweather fight is at hand.
De La Hoya told The Times before Saturday's fight that his company has been instructed by Mayweather to schedule MGM Grand in May for "the biggest fight possible, and there's no secret who that is.
"Mayweather wants the fight, and there's nothing that can keep this fight from happening."
Heard often after Saturday's bout, however, was the conclusion that if Marquez could make Pacquiao's life so difficult, imagine what Mayweather (42-0) would do.
"People can keep comparing Pacquiao and Mayweather, I don't care," Arum said. "If you want to say Manny's diminished by this, go ahead."