If Juan Manuel Marquez doesn't get a fourth shot at Manny Pacquiao this November, the 38-year-old four-division world champ still has plenty of options.
Of course, the big money bout with Pacquiao has to be top priority, both because of the money involved and because the Mexico City native truly feels that he should have three victories over the Filipino legend and not his official 0-2-1 mark.
Despite some rumblings about a possible effort to book Pacquiao-Marquez IV, Pacquiao-Bradley II is still the most likely bout to be made with a Marquez fight to be explored if/when Pacquiao avenges his controversial split decision loss to Bradley.
To Marquez, this means that he must maximize his time in the sport and focus on only big fights for the few remaining bouts of his nearly 20-year professional career.
Recently elevated to full junior welterweight champion status by the WBO, Marquez has plenty of possible challenges in the talent-heavy 140 lb. class. The WBO's number one contender, Mike Alvarado will be busy with fourth-ranked Brandon Rios, possibly setting up a mandatory clash with Marquez for early 2013. In the second and third slots of the WBO, respectively, Marquez will find solid, but beatable opposition in the form of pressure-fighting Russian, Ruslan Provodnikov and light-hitting Argentinian, Cesar Rene Cuenca.
In a perfect world, we could see Marquez against Erik Morales, Marcos Maidana, or any number of top junior welterweights, but logic dictates that Marquez, if he stays at 140 lbs. will only do so because a Pacquiao fight didn't come his way and he wants to keep his title bout with some token defense. So, don't expect a blockbuster at 140 anytime soon.
Another option for Marquez is a move up to welterweight where he can challenge some of the division's lesser champions while waiting for Pacquiao to come around. A run at Paulie Malignaggi's WBA belt or the winner of the Randall Bailey-Devon Alexander IBF title contest would be two good options for Marquez, who really would be better off at junior welterweight, anyway.
But it doesn't take a boxing genius to realize that Pacquiao, and Pacquiao alone, is on Marquez's mind. Professionally and financially, this is the fight he wants and anything else has to be considered a let-down.
Here's hoping, though, that Marquez doesn't run down his body clock waiting for a bout that may or may not ever happen. There are still a couple of classic efforts left in Juan Manuel Marquez and the fans deserve to see him at his best-- even if it isn't against his arch-rival.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and The BoxingTribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.
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