Juan Manuel Marquez didn't waste any time after defending his lightweight title before setting his sights on Round 3 with Manny Pacquiao.
Marquez stopped Michael Katsidis in the ninth round Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, winning an all-action battle and certain candidate for Fight of the Year. Moments later, he turned his attention to settling the score with the man considered the best in the world.
"Obviously, Pacquiao is my priority. I'll go up to 140 [pounds], it's no problem," Marquez said through a translator. "Stop making excuses, Manny. Fight me."
The two have met twice before, and both of the bouts were thrilling. They fought to a 12-round draw in 2004, and Pacquiao won a close split decision in March 2008.
Pacquiao, who has discussed retiring in three years, said at a news conference Monday in Manila that he's willing to fight Marquez again but that the match would probably not excite fans. He sounded doubtful himself, saying "I would not watch Pacquiao vs. Marquez."
Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Sunday that a third fight with Marquez is a distinct possibility, although just like everyone else, he's waiting to see whether Floyd Mayweather Jr. steps into the ring against Pacquiao in what could be the richest fight in boxing history.
Other candidates include Shane Mosley, who has already put financial numbers on the table for a fight, and welterweight titleholder Andre Berto, who looked sensational in a first-round knockout of Freddy Hernandez on the Marquez undercard Saturday night.
"Mayweather is the priority, but if he doesn't want the fight for whatever reason, then there are three possibilities: Mosley, Berto and Marquez," Arum said. "All I need is two numbers at this stage to go to Pacquiao on: what guarantee they're looking for and how much per home above a certain number [on the pay-per-view]."
Arum wouldn't say what he's been offered by Mosley, but Antonio Margarito received $3 million plus $3 per home over 700,000 buys for his loss to Pacquiao earlier this month. Marquez received $4 million plus $1 per home over a million when he lost to Mayweather last year.
The Top Rank boss plans to discuss a fight with Berto promoter Lou DiBella on Monday, and hopes to touch base with Marquez's people later in the week. Arum's flying to the Philippines on Dec. 12 to celebrate Pacquiao's birthday, and will present the offers then.
"My phone is on," said Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions, which represents Marquez. "If the Pacquiao vs. Marquez III fight isn't happening, it's not because of Golden Boy."
Whomever is chosen to fight Pacquiao, easily the sport's biggest box office attraction, Arum said the fight will be at 147 pounds and there will be no co-promotion -- unless the opponent is Mayweather. Otherwise, Top Rank will handle the entire process.
"If we do a deal with Marquez, and it'd be a money deal, they can come and represent Marquez at press conferences and that kind of stuff, but they wouldn't have anything to do with the promotion, nor would Lou," Arum said. "They would in effect be signing the fighter to us, because at this point, Manny doesn't have to do co-promotions with anybody."
The weight stipulation might only be an issue for Marquez, who dropped back to the 135-pound lightweight limit and looked stellar his past two fights. He won an easy decision over Juan Diaz in July before out-slugging Katsidis on Saturday night.
The only time Marquez has fought above lightweight, he was soundly beaten by Mayweather.
Pacquiao, meanwhile, has carried his power with him as he's moved up in weight, and his victory over Margarito earned him a title at junior middleweight -- extending his own record for championships to eight divisions. Even then, Pacquiao only weighed 144½ pounds, while Margarito tipped the scales at the contractual limit of 150 pounds.
"The weights are ridiculous because it's the day before that you're weighing, and look at Manny before fighting Margarito, he was a much bigger man," Arum said. "So whatever Marquez weighs, he's going to come in close to Manny."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.