LOS ANGELES - Has one of the most exciting fighters in the history of professional boxing lost it?
That was one question the world wants to ask after Manny Pacquiao got repeatedly pummeled by new sparring partner Surlan Shidaevin his first six rounds of sparring at the famed Wild Card Gym ahead of his fourth encounter with Mexican rival Juan Manuel Marquez.
There was palpable concern inside Freddie Roach's famous sweatshop, never mind if Pacquiao was still battling through jet lag and Roach himself pointed out that the world's only eight-division world champion tends to toy around with sparring partners early in training camp.
But if there is anyone other than Roach who can legitimately gauge Pacquiao's performance in training, it should be Raymundo 'Sugar' Beltran, who has been at the receiving end of the WBO Fighter of the Decade's blows in sparring for the last eight years.
And Beltran, the former WBC North American Boxing Federation lightweight champion, feels its not the age but the lack of challenge that seems to be slowing down Pacquiao.
"If he really has slowed down, maybe its because he has conquered everything. It's not about age but about being challenged. If he has slowed down, it's because he is on top already," Beltran said.
However, the native of Sinaloa, Mexico, who went three rounds with the Filipino ring hero, was quick to add: "His (Pacquiao) punches are still good. The speed and the timing are still there. If he wants to do it, he just turns it on."
If that's the case, maybe it's all in the mind for the Pacman.