COMMENTARY | It looks as though eight-division world titlist, Manny Pacquiao is all set to return to the ring this coming September, likely in an event held in China's gambling center of Macau. The only question that remains is whether the Filipino icon will fight old rivals Juan Manuel Marquez or Timothy Bradley or, perhaps, someone new. We do know, however, that any quality opponent he may face will be an in-house Top Rank fighter.
With that in mind, here's a look at Pacquiao's four most likely foes and how well they rank in terms of viability as an opponent.
Juan Manuel Marquez
It appears as though the most logical choice for Pacquiao's next fight just may be the toughest to actually secure. The 39-year-old four-division world champ seems ambivalent about ever facing his arch-nemesis again and has gone on record as saying that he may prefer to try for a world title in a fifth division, perhaps against WBO welterweight titlist, Timothy Bradley. While a bout with Bradley may be nowhere near as lucrative as a fifth Pacquiao clash, it certainly is a viable alternative should the Mexico City native decide to close the Pacquiao chapter of his career. After all, Marquez truly feels that he should've won all four previous bouts with Pacquiao and many boxing experts would also agree that he deserved to win at least three of their four encounters. Theories exist that Marquez's reluctance in talking Pacquiao is merely part of an effort to secure a bigger payday, but only time will tell if that turns out to be true.
When Bradley won a controversial split decision over Pacquiao in June of last year, the sport let out a collective gasp at the putrid job done by two of the three assigned judges. The negative reaction was so great that Pacquiao, himself, backed away from a possible chance at redemption via contractually-mandated rematch. The usually even-tempered Bradley made things worse for himself when he lashed out at his promoter Bob Arum and at Pacquiao over a stubborn unwillingness on their part to book a part two. However, Bradley's recent all-out war with Russia's Ruslan Provodnikov got him back in the good graces of Arum and many of the fans. "Desert Storm" still has the WBO welterweight title he took from Pacquiao and is probably a bigger name now than at any other point in his career. A rematch with Bradley makes sense and could actually do some fairly big numbers. But if Pacquiao decides to pass on part two, a Bradley-Marquez bout could be a fine substitute.
A recent name to emerge on the list of possible opponents is Denver's Mike Alvarado, who recently bested Brandon Rios via unanimous decision in a thrilling twelve-round battle. Alvarado, a career-long junior welterweight, is not the most talented or versatile of fighters, but makes up for a lack of finesse with a big heart and dogged determination. Wins over Breidis Prescott and Mauricio Herrera as well as a 1-1 split with Brandon Rios reveal a resume that is solid, but not exactly deep. In terms of marketability, he may be the least popular choice among all four opponent options, but that may not matter if Pacquiao is serious about taking his show to Asia and away from the U.S. as a primary market.
"Bam Bam" may have lost to Mike Alvarado in his last bout, but he has lost none of his reputation as a hard-charging, brawl-loving battler. Rios is still as popular as ever with his growing fan base and following up the recent loss with a big-ticket Pacquiao bout would not be too hard to justify, especially considering the closeness of the Alvarado decision. Pacquiao-Rios would be guaranteed to produce fireworks for as long as it lasted and give Rios the mainstream exposure he has long needed.
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 as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
- Sports & Recreation
- Manny Pacquiao
- Timothy Bradley
- Juan Manuel Marquez
- Brandon Rios