Let’s put something on the table right from the start: Only one fighter could go into a fight with Manny Pacquiao on even terms, Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The rest would enter as underdogs and almost certainly come out on the wrong end of a bad beating, as the Filipino’s recent opponents have experienced. Some try (Antonio Margarito) and some don’t (Joshua Clottey and Shane Mosley) but they all end up with a loss.
That said, it’s time for Pacquiao to be more selective when choosing his opponents. No more slow, limited boxers (Margarito) and no more senior citizens (Mosley).
Pacquiao must fight either young, hungry lions dying for both a big payday and the chance to knock the king off his throne or the right veteran, the kind of opponents who would provide the intrigue that has been missing in his recent fights.
No knowledgeable fan was excited about Clottey, Margarito and Mosley.
Again, any realistic opponent outside of Mayweather would face an uphill battle against Pacquiao but there are several out there who would be much more interesting choices than the three mentioned above.
Here is a look at five possibilities not named Mayweather, four of whom are realistic and one who isn’t, and how they rate as potential opponents for an icon in need of a compelling fight:
Record: 29-2-2 (22 KOs)
Last five fights: 4-0-1
The best-possible opponent probably is the most-unlikely opponent because of promotional loyalties. Ortiz is coming off a sensational victory over Andre Berto, who had been mentioned as a possible opponent for Pacquiao. The young, affable Mexican-American is hot commodity at the moment. Plus, as a new welterweight titleholder, he’s in Pacquiao’s weight class. THE RING rates Pacquiao and Ortiz Nos. 1 and 2 at 147 pounds, meaning the fight also would be for the magazine’s championship. Alas, Pacquiao fights for a promoter – Bob Arum – who refuses to do business with Ortiz’s promoter, Golden Boy. On top of that, Ortiz used to fight to fight for Arum and they had a less-than-friendly split. Thus, this matchup is unlikely. Too bad for the fans. Ortiz could end up fighting Mayweather, which would be a nice consolation for him and the fans.
Record: 27-0 (11 KOs)
Last five fights: 5-0
The No. 1 140-pounder in the world would have to move up in weight to fight Pacquiao, which would be a small disadvantage. He looked sluggish when he fought (and beat) Luis Abregu at 147 last year. Still, Bradley has the attributes –young, hungry, undefeated, talented, awkward and very articulate — to make for a successful promotion with Pacquiao. Bradley doesn’t have great name recognition but he is respected by knowledgeable boxing fans and would come across well in the months and weeks leading up to the fight, which would translate into pay-per-view buys. And this matchup could become reality. Arum said Bradley, Zab Judah and Juan Manuel Marquez are the three potential opponents he’s considering. Bradley was thought to be near a deal to fight Amir Khan but now that matchup seems unlikely.
Record: 32-3-1 (28 knockouts)
Last five fights: 3-1-1
I like this matchup even if you don’t, assuming Cintron can fight comfortably at 147 pounds for the first time in what would be three years. The former 147-pound titleholder is a good, athletic boxer with plenty of power, as his record indicates. His only losses were knockouts against Antonio Margarito, whose gloves we now believe might’ve been loaded, and a crazy technical decision against Paul Williams in which he flew out of the ring and wasn’t allowed to continue. He also was lucky to get a draw against Sergio Martinez, who appeared to win their fight. I don’t question Cintron’s toughness as much as others do; I think gets a bad rap. For example, he came on strong in the later rounds against Martinez and I don’t believe he quit against Williams. He could present some problems for Pacquiao.
Record: 41-6 (28 KOs)
Last five fights: 5-0
I think this fight could turn out to be the least competitive among these possible opponents but there are plusses. Judah is a good boxer, with pretty good power, who would be comfortable at 147 and seems to be in a very good place mentally. He also is experienced but not too old. He might give Pacquiao a little trouble with his speed and boxing ability early in the fight, as he did against Mayweather back in 2006. However, I don’t think he handles crises very well. His fight against Lucas Matthysse in November is a good example. Judah more or less began to fall apart under constant pressure and was lucky to emerge with a victory. That said, Judah is an entertaining fighter with an attractive personality (these days) who would make for a good promotion. And who knows? He might have a great performance in him yet.
JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ
Record: 52-5-1 (38 KOs)
Last five fights: 4-1
A third fight between Pacquiao and Marquez is the ideal option – at no more than 140 pounds, a weight at which Pacquiao will not fight. A catch weight of 144 or 145 reportedly is under consideration. Marquez fought Floyd Mayweather Jr. at 142 in 2009 and looked as if his feet were caught in quick sand; that’s how slow he was. He simply can’t fight effectively at that weight. He’s still probably a natural 130-pounder. Thus, Pacquiao-Marquez at welterweight will simply be more of the same for the Filipino hero, a one-sided, unsatisfying beat down that should never have happened. The one difference between Marquez and both Joshua Clottey and Mosley is that Marquez would put his life on the line in an attempt to win. I would loooooove to see this fight at around 137, a weight Pacquiao could make fairly easily.
Note: What about Sergio Martinez and Amir Khan, you ask? Forget Martinez. Pacquiao’s fans can crow all they want about how the Argentine would end up like the rest. It’s not true. Martinez’s combination of size and ability is much too much for Pacquiao, whose team wouldn’t allow the fight to happen. And Pacquiao and Khan are trained by the same man (Freddie Roach) and have become close friends. That matchup isn’t worth exploring.