LAS VEGAS — The 28 stitches over his right eye weren't enough to keep Manny Pacquiao from headlining his own postfight concert, which went on as usual into the early morning on the Las Vegas Strip.
They won't keep him from his next fight, though that's the only sure thing when it comes to Pacquiao's immediate future.
He escaped with a win Saturday night against Juan Manuel Marquez to retain his WBO welterweight title, but that tells only part of the story. Seemingly invincible over the past three years, he looked anything but in scoring a majority decision over his Mexican nemesis in a win that enraged both Marquez and thousands of others who packed the MGM Grand.
Somewhere, Floyd Mayweather had to be watching. Somewhere, Mayweather had to be wondering.
If Marquez could more than hold his own against Pacquiao by counterpunching every minute, what would stop Mayweather from doing the same? If Marquez did everything against Pacquiao except win, why not finally take dibs on next and finish the job?
Of course, it's not that simple. In almost getting beat, though, Pacquiao may have done more to make a megafight with Mayweather than with any of his big wins in recent years.
Pacquiao (54-3-2) has trouble with counterpunchers, as his fight with Marquez showed. And Mayweather is one of the best counterpunchers in the sport, if not the best.
"The style of Mayweather would get very complicated for Pacquiao," said Marquez, who has fought both men.
Marquez's style certainly was complicated for Pacquiao, who needed to win a few late rounds to pull out another close decision. He won by sheer aggression, though Marquez seemed to land the harder punches, especially with his right.
The first two fights in Pacquiao-Marquez — a controversial draw at 125 pounds in 2004 and an equally controversial split-decision victory by Pacquiao at 130 in 2008 — were among the closest of Pacquiao's career.
One judge scored Saturday's fight even, as did the Associated Press. Two had Pacquiao winning, 115-113 and 116-112. When the decision was announced, an infuriated Marquez stormed from the ring, and fans threw beer bottles toward the ring.
"For me, the best judges are the audience, and you see how they responded," Marquez said. "I don't know what type of performance I need to give. It was a robbery once again."
Marquez might have himself to blame. He went into the ring still fuming over the previous two bouts. He had to know most of the rounds were so close they were difficult to score, and judges more often than not favor the fighter moving forward against the fighter moving back.
Still, after listening to his corner tell him he was winning, he came out slow in the 12th. Neither man did much in a round when they might have been expected to let it all loose, but if Marquez had fought harder and won the 12th on two scorecards, he would have gotten a draw.
"It could have gone either way," said Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer. "I thought Manny edged it out in the last two rounds."