Let’s not pretend we really know what’s next for Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao after they faced one another this past weekend, and just tell you would might be, and should be, next for them.
Contractually, Mayweather owns Showtime one more fight, and he says he’ll be back in September. In the build-up for this promotion, he’s made a big deal about how he doesn’t love boxing anymore, and he said in his post-fight interview he won’t fight on after September.
But this isn’t the first time we’ve heard Mayweather threaten retirement then change his mind. And Tuesday, he let it be known he’d be up for a rematch with Pacquiao, maybe in 2016 if not 2015. So there’s that.
Mayweather-Pacquiao II is not a fight that needs to happen, no matter how much everyone is trying to set it up so we’ll want it. It doesn’t matter how much some casual fans thought Pacquiao won, or whether Evander Holyfield said it, or whether Pacquiao’s diehard fans said it, or whether Pacquiao himself said it: It wasn’t a terribly close fight. Moreover, it wasn’t a fight very many people enjoyed. Take away the mystery of what would happen when these two finally squared off, and there’s nothing left.
This whole excuse about Pacquiao’s torn rotator cuff looks more legitimate now with him getting surgery that could keep him sidelined for a year — although how quickly word of it leaked post-fight smacks of Pacquiao’s team trying to build the case that it was the difference-maker for purposes of selling the rematch. Yet Pacquiao’s team lost the right to complain about this when they didn’t disclose the injury to the Nevada State Athletic Commission — now the subject of a class action lawsuit from consumers and a possible perjury charge — and spent the whole time talking up what a great training camp he had. (Probably, under the circumstances, the commission should’ve let him take his medicine.) [On another drug note: We still don’t know how many times the United States Anti-Doping Agency tested Mayweather, but they tested Pacquiao 13 times, which sounds excessive.]
But all in all, there’s little reason to think a rematch goes much differently; as his team said, they thought the shoulder was getting better. And everything about the fight suggested that Mayweather beats Pacquiao five years ago, too, and pretty much every time they fight ever. Maybe a Mayweather-Pacquiao rematch can become viable via means we can’t anticipate. It isn’t anytime soon.
So that leaves Mayweather with some other options — names in bold.
From the standpoint of demonstrating gigantic balls, Gennady Golovkin is the best choice. He’s a sharp-boxing, heavy-punching middleweight who would move down to junior middleweight for the bout. From a match-up standpoint, it would be the best fight for the legacy he’s shown more concern about these days. Suggesting it’s a good choice is not the same as saying he should be expected to do it, however. Mayweather is a decent-punching welterweight who can compete at 154. Taking on the most feared guy in the sport right now, and a guy much bigger than him to boot, and with a decent case for financial gain but not a clearer case than some other options, would be badass, but it’s unrealistic, unfortunately.
Middleweight champion Miguel Cotto is much more marketable, and despite being in the same division as Golovkin, everyone knows he’s not a natural middleweight. The first Mayweather-Cotto fight was one of the better fights of his career, so we know they can produce more action than Mayweather-Pacquiao did. Winning that fight would give Mayweather the record for the most true divisional championships ever, five, and would make him the first fighter since Henry Armstrong to hold three championships at the same time. Right now, though, Cotto appears locked into a deal to face Canelo Alvarez in September, should he get by Daniel Geale. And even if Mayweather fights past September, it’s not clear Cotto will still wear the middleweight crown, and a Canelo rematch for Mayweather is even less interesting than a Pacquiao rematch, because that fight was more one-sided.
Then there’s a series of young guns at welterweight: Keith Thurman, Amir Khan (pictured above, via Harry How/Getty) and Kell Brook. Thurman had been doing a good job talking himself up as a Mayweather opponent, and delivering results in the ring, too. He’d shown off a vibrant personality and a lot of power, but the power part seems to have dropped off some as he’s faced improved competition. Khan is the long-time bridesmaid of Mayweather and Pacquiao opponents, and he said Mayweather’s manager approached him after the fight to see about being next. It’s a reasonably intriguing fight, as the British Khan has speed and length and looked good in his last fight against Devon Alexander. The question is whether he’d take it in September, when a training camp could be affected by Ramadan; Khan’s observance of that Muslim tradition has been a hurdle in the past to the fight calendar. Brook is another good option, from a talent standpoint (he’s both fast and powerful) although he’s not as well-known as anyone else on this list.
Next for Pacquiao, potentially, then, after he recovers from his injury and/or any court fights.
Bob Arum, Pacquiao’s promoter, has talked up Kell Brook. It’s a good option, for the same reason it would be for Mayweather. The problem is, he might be getting affiliated with Al Haymon, the way Thurman and Khan are. That really limits Pacquiao’s options at welterweight. Arum hates Haymon and vice versa, although we’ve seen with Mayweather-Pacquiao that both sides are at least capable of setting that aside.
Juan Manuel Marquez is just about retired, and had said he’d fight Pacquiao if Pac beat Mayweather, but that didn’t happen, and the surly Mexican rival of Pacquiao would be a great option if he could set aside the surly part and give Pacquiao a chance to avenge his knockout loss in their last meeting.
Beyond that, Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach has long spoken of Pacquiao returning to 140 pounds. HBO just aired Lucas Matthysse-Ruslan Provodnikov, and either man would make a good foe for Pacquiao, given that both retained their marketability with that hard-fought brawl that Matthysse won. That makes Matthysse a slightly better option as the victor, and because Provodnikov and Pacquiao are ex-sparring partners/buddies. Mattthysse might fight Terence Crawford next, and the winner of that fight also could be a great Pacquiao option — although because Crawford is such a dangerous, intelligent, boxer-puncher, that match-up might be the passing of the big platform torch for Pacquiao on his way out of his career, the same way Oscar De La Hoya elevated Mayweather and Pacquiao in losses.
Retirement might be the best way to go. Pacquiao might still have some fight left in him, but the years of brutal wars seem to be catching up to him and if his body is breaking down, too, we’ve seen how that can exacerbate the punishment.