MACAU – Manny Pacquiao is done taking the high road, tired of pretending he doesn't care.
At long last he has Floyd Mayweather Jr. right where he wants him. And this time he's not about to let him slip away without a fight.
"I think it's time to say something," Pacquiao said Sunday after dispatching Chris Algieri in convincing fashion in this Chinese casino town. "The fans deserve that fight. It's time to make that fight happen."
Whether it actually happens, of course, depends on Mayweather agreeing to sign on the bottom line. And for the better part of five years now, Mayweather has given one excuse after another when it comes to making the one fight boxing fans really want.
He thought Pacquiao might be on steroids, and refused to deal with his promoter. When Pacquiao got knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez, Mayweather said it wasn't worth his time to even mention his name.
But now Mayweather may be boxed into a corner for a number of reasons and from a number of angles. The pressure will be on to make the fight sometime in the first half of next year or forever draw the wrath of the fans who contribute to his massive paychecks.
And suddenly the prospect of boxing's richest fight ever doesn't seem like such a far-fetched fantasy after all.
"Answer the telephone, it's as simple as that," promoter Bob Arum said when asked what it would take to make the fight. "If boxing is to be considered a major sport then the fight has to happen. The nonsense needs to cease. There are no excuses anymore."
Mayweather opened the door ever so slightly to the fight after his win over Marcos Maidana in September, saying that he might be open to the possibility of a fight.
"If the Pacquiao fight happens, it happens," Mayweather said. "You can ask the same questions and get the same answers. I call my own shots."
There remain a number of obstacles to actually making a fight, though, not least is Mayweather's willingness to risk his unblemished mark near the end of his career. There are issues with promoters, TV contracts, purse splits and even legacies.
But Arum has been in exploratory talks with Les Moonves, the head of CBS Corp., which owns the Showtime network that Mayweather is contractually obligated to for two more fights.
And the fact is that both fighters have pretty much run out of opponents that boxing fans will pay good money for pay-per-view to see. That wouldn't be the case in a megafight that would break all records and make both fighters paydays far more than the $20 million to 30 million they've routinely been getting for fights.
"I get asked about it wherever I go," Arum said of a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. "If I'm on a plane the person next to me will ask me. I go to the restroom, and the attendant asks me."
Neither fighter is the same as he was five years ago, when the clamor first began for the fight. Age has taken a toll, if ever so slightly, on their reflexes and speed.
But they both have plenty left, as Pacquiao showed when he knocked Algieri down six times on his way to a decision so lopsided that they were measuring it in terms of touchdowns and field goals.
"The man is exactly what he was billed as," Algieri said after Pacquiao cut short his Rocky story in front of Sylvester Stallone himself. "He's a great champion and one of the great fighters of his era."
Algieri's game plan was to weather the storm early against Pacquiao and try to win the fight late, but he did not implement it well. Algieri ran most of the fight and was unwilling to exchange with Pacquiao, and was out of the bout before it reached the fourth round.
It was a signature win for Pacquiao, one he needed badly. His own plan was to show he still has power after going five years without a knockout and he kept putting Algieri down even if he could not finally put him away.
Afterward, Pacquiao stood in the ring and mimicked a Foot Locker commercial he stars in, where he jumps up and down and excitedly cries out "He's going to fight me? Yes! Yes!"
Not so fast, maybe. A lot of things would still have to happen to make the fight actually happen. The chances of it falling apart are still greater than it coming together.
But it may be time for boxing fans to start getting at least a little bit excited, too.