LAS VEGAS — Minutes after he defeated Miguel Cotto Saturday in one of the better all-around performances of his career, Floyd Mayweather Jr. seemed to be speaking directly to Manny Pacquiao when he addressed the feasibility of a fight between the top boxers in the world.
Essentially, what Mayweather said to Pacquiao, who arrived in Los Angeles from the Philippines on Saturday at about the very moment Mayweather was about to start his match with Cotto, was dump promoter Bob Arum and we have a fight.
It's just been a problem trying to make this fight. The fans and the public are being fooled. Bob Arum does not want to make this fight happen. Once he's free from Bob Arum, will the fight happen? Absolutely.
Pacquiao is contractually bound to Top Rank, and if he tried to make some sort of end-run, Top Rank would undoubtedly sue and the courts would prevent him from fighting until the matter was determined. That would take way longer than a guy who doesn't have much time left in the sport would want to wait, so it's almost certain that Pacquiao would not attempt to jump ship.
Mayweather has talked about fighting a second time in 2012, after he is released from a 90-day jail sentence that begins June 1. So, if it is not Pacquiao, here is an assessment of who might be under consideration, who would work and the pros and cons of each opponent:
Canelo Alvarez, WBC super welterweight champion: Alvarez is clearly being groomed by Golden Boy to become the successor to Mayweather and Pacquiao as the sport's biggest attraction. He was clearly the most popular fighter on the pay-per-view card Saturday, getting louder cheers than anyone in his fight against Shane Mosley. He's going to fight again on Sept. 15.
Pros: He's unbeaten, he's a champion, he's with Golden Boy and he's immensely popular with Hispanic fans.
Cons: He'd only be 22 at the time of a potential Mayweather fight and he's still got a ways to go to be ready for that level of competition.
Odds of landing the fight: 4-1, the leader in the clubhouse
Amir Khan, former super lightweight champion: Khan would already be at welterweight, Mayweather's best weight, if he'd taken care of business in December against Lamont Peterson. But Khan and Peterson have a rematch on May 19 for the super lightweight title in Las Vegas.
Pros: Khan brings a large following in the U.K., which will mean solid television money. Mayweather is popular in the U.K. Khan is also very athletic and has speed. Most significantly, he's with Golden Boy.
Cons: He's inconsistent and will look like a world beater one time out and then look kind of questionable the next time. He's still also not much of an attraction in the U.S. and wouldn't necessarily appeal to the large Hispanic fan base that has been critical to the sport's success.
Odds of landing the fight: 7-1, which would be lower if he beats Peterson on May 19
Sergio Martinez, middleweight champion: Martinez is No. 3 in the Yahoo! rankings and he's very athletic with an entertaining style. He hasn't been marketed particularly well, if at all, and so he hasn't developed a broad fan base. He's not a big middleweight and has already said he'd be willing to get as low as 150 pounds if it meant landing a Mayweather fight. Given that Mayweather made a point of allowing Cotto to come in at the 154-pound limit, it's likely that Mayweather would agree to meet Martinez at 154 or even at 160 for a middleweight title bout.
Pros: He's widely regarded as in the top three pound-for-pound, which will create a natural marketing hook. He's an entertaining, action fighter and he's willing to do an 80-20 purse split in favor of Mayweather.
Cons: Despite his in-ring success, he's not a big name. He's not easy for American media to reach and he doesn't speak English. He's from Argentina and hasn't found a big fan base with either Mexicans or American Hispanics.
Odds of landing the fight: 10-1
Andre Berto, welterweight: Berto is managed by Al Haymon, who guides Mayweather's career. That makes him easier to land. Berto faces Victor Ortiz on June 23 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in a rematch of an entertaining 2011 bout that was Fight of the Year in some places.
Pros: His association with Haymon, and if he beats Ortiz, he'd be coming off a big, high-profile win.
Cons: Still very unknown and not a ticket seller at all.
Odds of landing the fight: 15-1
Victor Ortiz, welterweight: Ortiz already fought Mayweather and a bizarre fight it was indeed. If he beats Berto, though, he'll undoubtedly renew his calls for a rematch.
Pros: He's known from the first Mayweather fight, he'd be coming off a win over Berto and there is a large segment that believes he was cheated the last time he met Money. He's also Golden Boy property.
Cons: He's mentally in a fog sometimes and there's little upside to Mayweather fighting him again. There are strong rumors the PPV didn't do as well as HBO and Golden Boy said it did.
Odds of landing the fight: 20-1
Kell Brook, welterweight: Brook is next-to-unknown in the U.S., but the 26-year-old from Sheffield, England, is an emerging star. He's 26-0 with 18 KOs and looks as if he's going to become a major force.
Pros: He's got talent, U.K. backing and an unbeaten record.
Cons: Hasn't faced very good competition, has no worldwide appeal and is still a developing fighter.
Odds of landing the fight: 50-1
Andre Ward, super middleweight: Ward is an Olympic gold medalist who is quickly rising up the professional pound-for-pound ranks. I think this is the man Mayweather should fight if he can't make a match with Pacquiao. Ward is considerably bigger, and so it would be a risk, and that risk would mean that a lot of people would tune in. Could Mayweather handle an unbeaten gold medalist who is that much bigger? The Mayweather haters would buy because they'd think he'd be in big trouble against such a big man. His supporters would rightly argue that a win would help cement his place in history and move up way up on the all-time rankings. Floyd would have to agree to give up a lot of weight, but Ward could probably cut to 162 in order to make the big payday.
Pros: Great talent, charismatic personality, gold medalist, squeaky clean image to play the good guy role versus Mayweather's bad guy role.
Cons: Too big, not well-known enough.
Odds of landing the fight: 50-1, though I think if Mayweather is smart, this is his play.
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