The hard-hitting Filipino spent most of Saturday chasing a strangely passive Shane Mosley around the ring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, coasting to a unanimous-decision victory before a crowd of 16,412 in the biggest fight of the year to date.
Pacquiao's 14th consecutive victory wasn't close, and it was never in doubt. The judges' scores were 119-108, 120-108 and 120-107, with the punch stats reflecting the disparity in action: Pacquiao landed 182 of 552 shots, compared to just 82 of 260 for Mosley.
GALLERY: Best shots from Pacquiao-Mosley
"I was surprised he ran and ran," said Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KOs), the eight-division champion who was making the second defense of the WBO welterweight title he took from Miguel Cotto in 2009. "My opponent had a lot of respect for me."
Too much respect. With the ultraconservative effort, the 39-year-old Mosley effectively signed his own walking papers from the sport's top flight. Now just 8-7-1 since opening his career at 38-0, the clamor for Sugar Shane's retirement will surely begin in earnest.
And why shouldn't it? Mosley (46-7-1, 39 KOs), who received a minimum of $5 million, did little to dispel the impression he was just happy to be here. He'd thanked everybody but the janitor at Wednesday's final pre-fight press conference and spent most of Saturday making conciliatory gestures in the ring: the fighters touched gloves at least 15 times (mostly at Mosley's lead) and even hugged before the 12th round.
The bruised challenger described seeing "different types of punches that I wouldn't have fallen for with anyone else" when he emerged in sunglasses to meet with the press nearly 75 minutes after the fight.
"I don't think he tried to win the fight, I think he just tried to survive," said Freddie Roach, who trains Pacquiao, "and when you get to that point in boxing I think it's time to [retire]."
Mosley held titles at lightweight, welterweight and junior middleweight, rising to the mythical pound-for-pound summit Pacquiao now inhabits. But the future Hall of Famer who twice upset Oscar De La Hoya bore little resemblance to the faded talent who looked so out of his depth Saturday against a younger, faster champion.
The Pomona, Calif., native looked fast and strong but hesitant to engage, and it was clear from the second round he was outmatched.
A cagey opening saw Pacquiao probe with the right jab, while Mosley tried to set up body shots with a leading left hand. In the third, Pacquiao made more concerted attacks, but a cautious Mosley stayed out of range. Mosley did a good job of picking off punches but couldn't or wouldn't return with fire.
With 1:17 left in the third, Pacquiao connected with a lunging right jab just sharply enough to blind Mosley momentarily, following it up with a short left hook that dumped Mosley to the canvas. "He surprised me with that power," Mosley confessed. "He has speed and power that I have never felt before."
From there, it was all Pacquiao, even as he contended with a left leg muscle cramp that struck in the fourth round and undercut his leverage.
MANNIX: Pacquiao-Mosley round-by-round analysis
"The first knockdown I felt I got him, and I felt I was stronger than him," Pacquiao said.
Mosley spent the rest of the night just trying to keep Pacquiao in front of him. He was picking off the champion's increasingly diverse offerings -- hooks to the body, straights upstairs, uppercuts with either hand (which Pacquiao rarely throws), the occasional overhand right -- but proved unable to follow up with any substantial offense.
Pacquiao worked the angles, attacked and tried fastidiously to crack the code. Even as he barely missed with whipping hooks, his straight left was doing significant damage. More glove-touching invited scattered boos from the crowd, a din that only grew as the night wore on. The fight evoked memories of Pacquiao's forgettable 12-round decision victory over Josh Clottey in March 2010, in which the Ghanaian challenger turtled up, refused to engage and seemed perfectly content to be spared the indignity of a knockout.
Even when Mosley tried to open up -- like the well-timed right uppercut that caught Pacquiao flush in the sixth -- it only emboldened the Filipino. Mosley closed the sixth with a big right followed by a bigger left, but they weren't nearly enough to win the round.
Mosley appeared easily discouraged by the flurry of activity, demoralized by his opponent's endless reserves of energy. Midway through the fight, he appeared exhausted.
The most interesting sequence of the fight's second half came in the 10th, when Mosley either struck or pushed Pacquiao to the canvas with his right glove. Referee Kenny Bayless ruled it a knockdown, though replays revealed it to be a push (and Bayless apologized to Roach for the missed call after the final bell). Pacquiao appeared incredulous, then completely invigorated: he bumrushed Mosley, amping up the pressure and went for the knockout as the crowd erupted. Mosley backpedaled furiously, eating punches and briefly using his right glove to balance himself along the top rope.
Spurred by the injustice of the faux knockdown, Pacquiao bore down for the knockout but couldn't finish a challenger in full retreat. (Consider the 11th round, when Mosley threw just 13 punches, landing four.) The pro-Pacquiao crowd greeted the final bell with a cascade of boos, clearly underwhelmed by Mosley's unwillingness to come forward and fight.
Still, it's difficult not to stand back and admire Pacquiao's latest Hall of Fame scalp and how it fits within the greater legacy of the Pambansang Kamao -- or National Fist.
The details of Pacquiao's improbable rise from street urchin to worldwide superstar are well-documented -- the squalid living conditions in General Santos City, the flight from home after his father killed, cooked and ate his pet dog, the ferry ride to Manila where he learned his craft in the capital city's barely legal smokers.
After stealing to Hollywood and teaming with Roach in 2001, Pacquiao stockpiled world titles at 112, 122, 126, 130, 135, 140, 147 and 154 pounds -- a record haul that may never be matched.
Now the 32-year-old is done scaling weight classes. What's left is the third act: a messianic desire to heal the world.
Elected to Congress in the Philippines last year, Pacquiao is emerging as a champion of social justice unlike anything known in sporting life since Muhammad Ali. "I have a special message to all of you," said Pacquiao at Wednesday's press conference. "All my life, I have had to fight. As a child, I had to fight just to eat. And now when I fight, Filipinos call me a hero. I believe the biggest fight of my life is not in boxing. The biggest fight in my life is how to end poverty in my country."
Pacquiao's higher calling prompted the decision to wear yellow gloves Saturday as a "symbol of unity in the fight against poverty." He encouraged people attending the fight to wear yellow also, which many did both in Las Vegas and back home in the Philippines.
Already a global superstar, Pacquiao's stock only rises in the United States. He earned at least $20 million for Saturday's effort, a figure that promises to swell once the pay-per-view receipts are counted. His English is light years better than even three years ago, when he first burst onto the mainstream radar with his upset of De La Hoya. He's tapped IMG veteran Lucia McKelvey to help consolidate a notoriously scattered and dysfunctional endorsement portfolio.
Many hope the final chapter of Pacquiao's career will include a long-awaited showdown with Floyd Mayweather, but Top Rank CEO Bob Arum didn't seem overly optimistic during Saturday's post-fight press conference. Nor did Pacquiao, who remained noncomittal on a fight the public has already made.
"For me, I don't care about that fight," Pacquiao said. "I am satisfied with everything that I have done in boxing. I want [the Mayweather fight] because the people want the fight."
Arum said he's made an offer to Juan Manuel Marquez to fight Pacquiao on Nov. 5 or Nov. 12. If Marquez is unavailable, he'll fight Timothy Bradley or Zab Judah, who hold belts in the 140-pound division where Pacquiao is still lineal champ.
"The problem is that this is becoming a pattern," said Arum of the fight's one-sided flow. "Manny doesn't allow any opponent to fight his fight. He takes the opponent out of the fight because of his speed and because of his power. Shane had no answer, but neither did De La Hoya, neither did Miguel Cotto, neither did Margarito.
"You've got to understand what you're watching now. You're watching a phenomenon."