Who will Manny Pacquiao fight next after winning (or losing) against Mexican counter-puncher Juan Manuel Marquez on December 8?
The obvious answer to this nagging question is no other than the unbeaten Floyd Mayweather, Jr. But every boxing fan knows there is no certainty whatsoever in a Pacquiao vs. Mayweather fight.
As knowledgeable fight fans know, the fight every boxing fan in the world wants to see has been the subject of failed negotiations for the past three years due mainly to disagreements by both parties on issues ranging from purse splits to the Mayweather-imposed Olympic-style drug testing process.
So, casting aside Mayweather for Pacquiao's post-Marquez fight, it appears there is a very limited choice of fighters who would satisfy the promoter's expectations in terms of revenues to make the fight financially viable.
Likewise, there seems to be few choices from rising quality fighters who now possess attractive credentials after facing the best fighters in their respective divisions in recent years.
Being a long-time pay-per-view (PPV) fighter, Pacquiao's promoter is bound to match Pacquiao with another veteran or potential fighter who could help generate more PPV buys for the fight.
This is exactly the reason Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum declined to support the rematch bid of Timothy Bradley against Pacquiao as he knows the Palm Spring fighter don't sell much in the PPV market.
But there maybe at least three choices who could be potential Pacquiao challengers. These fighters have fought impressively during their most recent fights.
After trashing unbeaten Julio Cesar Chavez last September 15 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, Martinez is the hottest fighter next to Mayweather and Pacquiao.
Martinez is on a six-fight winning streak and has fought highly-rated fighters in the last two years after losing to Paul Williams in 2010.
Like Pacquiao, Martinez is a southpaw and has a clear advantage in height and in reach, though he is much older than Pacquiao at 37.
Not being a Golden Boy Promotions (GBP) fighter, Arum can deal with Martinez' promoter without much difficulties as he would deal with rival GBP.
The only possible roadblock in a Pacquiao-Martinez fight is the weight issue. Pacquiao has indicated he won't fight at any weight higher than 147 while Martinez is doubtful whether he can go down to 150 although he has dared Pacquiao to move to 150 to seal a fight.
A recent opinion poll posted at Boxing Scene shows 55 percent of respondents say 154 is fine for Martinez but not 150 pounds as he previously offered to lure Pacquiao.
Light welterweight Brandon Rios is one of the more popular fighters under Bob Arum's Top Rank Promotions who could bravely stand up against Pacquiao.
With his impressive performance over Mike Alvarado last October 13 at the Home Deport Center in Carson, California, he could give Pacquiao some troubles in the ring with his unmatched courage. But Rios is an easy target for the Filipino star because of his stationary stance as he seldom moves his head to avoid straight punches.
Other than Bradley and Nonito Donaire, Rios is the next most popular fighter in the Top Rank stable at this time and the chance of getting a shot at Pacquiao is more real than imagined—simply because he is a Top Rank fighter and arranging a fight between him and Pacquiao is the next easiest job for Arum to do.
Through the courage and determination of Rios, the Alvarado-Rios match is now a candidate for the "fight of the year" award.
Saul "Canelo" Alvarez
The 22-year-old boxing sensation from Guadalajara, Mexico is another candidate for the Pacquiao sweepstakes. But due to the intense rivalry between Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank, the possibility is quite remote, unless Oscar De La Hoya and Arum kiss and make up.
Alvarez deserves a crack at Pacquiao because of his achievements at a very young age. Canelo has 42 professional fights to his credit without a single loss. He was quite impressive in his last three fights and is ripe for a full-blown PPV event with Pacquiao either in Mexico or in Las Vegas.
These three fighters are fresh matches for Pacquiao and would definitely please boxing fans who have long been clamoring for world-class fights and not rematches or recycled fights as major promoters have been feeding them.