By Ivan G. Goldman
We need to start looking at Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao as welterweight Klitschkos. That is, let’s assume they won’t fight each other and go on from there. Who’s next?
Mayweather, who left the Clark County klink Friday in a blue Bentley, will soon hunker down with the people he trusts to figure out his next opponent. It takes plenty off cash to keep those Bentleys running. The group will include trainer Uncle Roger and rapper and newly proclaimed promoter 50 Cent. Supposedly Mayweather will fight before the year is out, but he’s said a lot of things that didn’t turn out to be true. I was in the room when he announced one of his retirements.
Meanwhile Pacquiao and his advisors are simultaneously in a big sit-down with promoter Bob Arum to figure out his next opponent because he’s not ready to hang up his gloves either. Floyd and Manny are both on the down side, but it’s not unusual for fading fighters to get more exciting. They’re more likely to stand still and trade.
They will both be looking at the same set of potential guys, and though Mayweather in particular can be full of surprises (Who could have predicted he would fight Juan Manuel Marquez after diabolically double-crossing him on the catch-weight?) Pacquiao and Mayweather’s needs are not identical. Pacquiao is more concerned with proving himself against the best while still raking in plenty of loot. Mayweather, also looking to make big, big bucks, is concerned more with reducing risks to himself and his win-loss record. Mayweather fans will disagree with that, of course. I hereby agree Floyd is a great fighter. But that doesn’t mean he’s looking for tough fights, because he isn’t.
Actually, Floyd would have a pretty good chance to beat Pacquiao, assuming he sufficiently recovers from the horror of drinking tap water for the last 60 days. The problem is, he doesn’t agree, which is why he does what he does and doesn’t do what he doesn’t do. And no matter what else he does in life, he never signs to fight Pac-Man, even though it would certainly be the biggest-money fight of all time and Money is his middle name, sort of.
Now, who are the potential opponents for these Klitschko-like welterweights that Forbes named as the top money-making athletes of any sport in 2011? ($85 million in fight earnings to Mayweather versus a mere $62 million to Pacquiao in purses and endorsements).
I see the top three candidates as Timothy Bradley, Robert Guerrero, and Paul Malignaggi. You will hear plenty of other names being floated around, but these are the guys with the correct pedigrees, personal history, and drawing power. All hold genuine welterweight world titles. And though they are all excellent fighters, they’re not phenomenally dangerous matched against our Klitschko-like duo. That is, they aren’t terribly likely to knock them out.
Guerrero, devoted to his cancer-survivor wife, has a great personal story, is of Mexican extraction, and just moved up from lightweight. All plusses. Bradley, also a smallish welter, has that victory over Pacquiao, though much of the world disagrees with the verdict. Malignaggi is a colorful, gutsy New Yorker who can boast a real following and who won his title by knockout.
Expect lots of back-and-forth phone calls as the Pacquiao and Mayweather people play musical chairs with these three guys. Who else is there? Well, world champions are pretty good at ferreting out undefeated foreigners no one ever heard of, so that’s always an option. They could also dip down to junior welters like Danny Garcia, Brandon Rios, or Mike Alvarado, all of them undefeated. Pacquiao could go back to the well with Marquez. He would be unsuitable for Mayweather, who barely broke a sweat while defeating him.
There is also a nice assortment of super welters, though they pack more punch, making them a dangerous bunch. Think Erislandy Lara, Vanes Martirosyan, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, Anthony Mundine. In the past Pacquiao has gone after bigger guys like Antonio Margarito because he liked the way they didn’t move much.
But maybe somebody ought to inform Pacquiao and Mayweather that, hey, guess what? If you fought each other, you wouldn’t be betraying your mother’s wishes. You’re not the Klitschkos.
Ivan G. Goldman’s latest novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. Information HERE