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Pacquiao awaits what could be his last fight

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LAS VEGAS (AP) Manny Pacquiao was sitting on a couch, talking about his dreams.

Good ones and bad, like the one he had a month before fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr.

“I dreamed I lost the fight, but in my dream I also saw there was a problem,” Pacquiao said. “It happened exactly like my dream.”

A lot of boxing fans might have wished Pacquiao had disclosed his dreams before last May’s megafight. They could have saved themselves thousands of dollars for a ticket or $100 to watch at home on pay-per-view in boxing’s richest fight.

Instead they paid to see a ho-hum fight won by Mayweather, quickly followed by an excuse from Pacquiao. In the fourth round he reinjured a shoulder no one outside his camp knew was injured, Pacquiao said, leading to his defeat.

In all it was huge letdown for almost everyone involved. What was billed as one of the greatest matchups in recent years was a snoozer that looked little different from any other Mayweather fight.

Now Pacquiao returns nearly a year later for a welterweight fight with Timothy Bradley that even promoter Bob Arum is having difficulty figuring out how to sell. The two meet in a rubber match of their three-fight series Saturday night, and once again Arum wants fight fans to dig into their pockets for what could be Pacquiao’s final pay-per-view fight.

Arum has jumped in the middle of Pacquiao’s derogatory comments about gays, calling them outrageous while defending the fighter himself. He’s put together a “No Trump” undercard of Hispanic fighters and tried to market the fight as a clash between longtime Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach and new Bradley trainer Teddy Atlas.

But even a promoter of Arum’s stature – he’s celebrating his 50th year in boxing this month – can do only so much. The first two fights between Pacquiao and Bradley weren’t terribly memorable, and boxing fans may still be suffering a hangover from the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.

While his fight with Mayweather generated 4.4 million buys, this one will struggle to do the 700,000 Arum is predicting, even at a lower price. There are also still tickets available at the MGM Grand box office, also a lot cheaper than the Mayweather fight.

Still, there’s a good chance this will be Pacquiao’s last fight, the final time we’ll see the remarkable Filipino who started boxing in the ring at age 12. He’s running for Senate in the Philippines, and if he wins he’ll have a full-time job that would leave little time for training.

He runs hot and cold about leaving boxing, though, and there is the alluring prospect of another big payday or two if he is impressive against Bradley.

“It’s hard to say right now,” Pacquiao said. “I haven’t been there. I don’t know the feeling of being there. But I’m OK with that (retirement).”

If Pacquiao does retire it won’t be because he’s taken too many punches in 65 fights over the last 21 years. He still has his mental faculties, as evidenced by a command of English that gets better every fight, and feels fresh after taking nearly a year off to relax and repair his shoulder.

But he’s getting pressure from his wife to stop boxing, and wants to transition from being a congressman to a senator and, perhaps in the future, make a run for the presidency.

“It’ not about being tired of boxing,” Pacquiao said. “It’s about the advice of my family.”

Even with the loss to Mayweather in a fight that paid him more than $100 million, Pacquiao would seem to have little left to prove in the ring. He won his first title 18 years ago at 112 pounds and added seven others in the years in between as he transformed from scrappy fighter to boxing superstar.

He also claims to have some money still left after years of buying cars, houses and providing for the needs of a lot of his countrymen.

“I’m OK, I’m OK,” Pacquiao said about his finances.

Sitting on the couch in a VIP room at the MGM Grand a few days before his fight with Bradley, Pacquiao seemed at peace with both his life and career. He laughed easily, tried his best to explain contradictions in when exactly his shoulder was hurt (he now claims 2009) and talked about how moving up in weight had taken away some of his knockout power.

He also talked about his dreams, including the one that came to him before the Mayweather fight that he would lose. There have been no dreams about this fight, Pacquiao said, although Roach was quick to offer one of his own.

“I dreamed that he wins this fight by a knockout,” Roach said.

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

GGG outlasts Jacobs in close unanimous decision

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NEW YORK (AP) Gennady Golovkin outlasted Danny Jacobs in an exhausting 12-round defense of his middleweight titles Saturday night.

Both fighters are knockout artists, yet this one went the distance – the first time GGG has not had a KO in 24 fights, and his first time going 12 rounds. The Kazakh won 115-112 on two judges’ cards and 114-113 on the other.

The AP had it 114-113 for Golovkin.

In the toughest fight of his stellar career, Golovkin often was stymied by Jacobs changing to a left-handed style. But a series of hard rights throughout the bout were enough – barely – to bring his record to 37-0.

“Daniel did a very good job,” Golovkin said. “Daniel is my favorite fighter. I can’t destroy him.”

He didn’t, unlike so many other opponents who felt the fury or GGG.

“I thought I won it by at least two rounds minimum,” said Jacobs, nicknamed Miracle Man after he overcame bone cancer in 2011-12 to win 10 straight fights. “I did feel like I had to win the 12th round to make sure.”

He won it on two of the three cards, but it wasn’t enough, perhaps because he was knocked down in the fourth round, which went to Golovkin 10-8 on all three cards.

Still, with Madison Square Garden reverberating from chants of “Triple G” or “JACOBS,” no one could be sure of the outcome right until the final punch.

Jacobs is 32-2. Golovkin holds on to his belts and took Jacobs’ WBA middleweight title.

Golovkin, a world champion since 2010, is 5-0 at the Garden, which he calls a “second home.” But Jacobs, from Brooklyn and, oddly, a representative of the competing arena the Barclays Center, tested him more than anyone has.

Golovkin keeps his WBC and WBO crowns – the IBF belt was not at stake because Jacobs skipped that organization’s fight-day weigh-in. On the horizon for GGG could be that elusive meeting with Canelo Alvarez if the Mexican wins his fight in May against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

“Of course I am ready to fight Canelo, of course I want that fight,” Golovkin said. “I am like an animal for that fight.”

But there’s another option, GGG admitted.

“I will give Danny Jacobs a chance for a rematch.”

Earlier, Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai stunned previously unbeaten Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez, knocking down the Nicaraguan in the first round, bloodying his face with an unintentional head-butt in the third, then winning a majority decision for the WBC super flyweight championship.

Even though Sor Rungvisai was docked a point in the sixth round for another head-butt – there were several in the brutal bout – he never backed off. He relentlessly attacked the cut over the right eye of Gonzalez, who clearly was hampered by the blood streaming down his face. The challenger carried the fight in the eyes’ of the judges through the latter rounds.

In only his second fight outside Asia, Sor Rungvisai improved to 42-4-1 with 38 knockouts. Gonzalez, considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport, is 46-1.

One judge had the fight even at 113-113. The other two gave the Thai the nod 114-112 in the action-packed bout.

A sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden vigorously booed the decision.

The AP had it 115-113 for Gonzalez, who has held some sort of world title since 2008.

Gonzalez went down from a hard right to the body in the opening round, but he then took charge – even after his face turned to a bloody mask in the middle rounds. However, Sor Rungvisai landed enough punches and moved well enough to keep in it.

And then, despite being outpunched decisively, with Gonzalez landing 441 to 284, the Thai got the surprise decision.

Earlier, Carlos Cuadras outpointed fellow Mexican David Carmona in a super flyweight fight.

Both from Mexico City, Cuadras and Carmona were coming off defeats. Neither was particularly sharp Saturday night, and the decision drew a lusty round of boos from the crowd.

Perhaps the unorthodox manner in which Cuadras fought, at times looking off-balance and awkward, didn’t win over the fans. Or maybe it was the way Carmona came on late in the 10-rounder.

Regardless, the judges went for Cuadras 97-93, 97-93 and 96-94.

Cuadras (36-1-1 with 27 KOs) lost a close unanimous decision to Gonzalez in a sensational September matchup for the WBC belt he’d held since 2014. He wasn’t nearly as impressive in his win at the Garden.

Carmona (20-4-5) was also coming off a loss, to WBO world champion Naoya Inoue of Japan.

Cleveland’s Ryan Martin improved to 18-0 with 11 knockouts when he totally outmatched Bryant Cruz before stopping him in the seventh round of their lightweight bout.

Floyd Mayweather would be massive betting favorite against Conor McGregor in superfight

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Seeing how Floyd Mayweather has never lost a professional fight to any actual boxer, oddsmakers rate him as an overwhelming favorite if the much rumored boxing match against mixed martial arts star Conor McGregor comes to realization.

Mayweather is  listed as a -1400 betting favorite against the +750 underdog McGregor at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. If it happens – and McGregor has been dropping hints that it will, sharing video of him training for boxing in Mayweather’s hometown of Las Vegas – it would also be the most lucrative bout in prize fighting history.

Mayweather, who turns 40 years old next week, is a perfect 49-0 during a career which has seen him win acclaim as the best fighter, pound for pound, of the last quarter-century. The five-division world champion has stayed on top of the game for so long by being an excellent defensive fighter who wears out opponents.

Mayweather’s last seven victories as well as 10 of his last 12 have gone the full 12 rounds. At this stage of his career, he’s far from a knockout artist but is likely to be able to keep his guard up much better than the typical opponent McGregor faces in the Octagon.

McGregor, the UFC lightweight champion, ends his fights quickly. The Irishman has won 17 of his last 18 bouts, including 14 by knockout or technical knockout. Stamina likely wouldn’t be an issue for McGregor in a boxing ring, given that boxing rounds are two minutes shorter than the five-minute rounds in the UFC.

Of course, if the fight actually comes to pass, McGregor would have to adjust to using the heavier boxing gloves and would have to get used to staying on his feet.

Since coming to the UFC, McGregor has been an underdog only once, closing at -105 against Jose Aldo at UFC 194. That was the bout where he knocked out Aldo in 13 seconds.