Ranking Manny Pacquiao's Best Options for Next Fight

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2013

Ranking Manny Pacquiao's Best Options for Next Fight

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    Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2) needs to pick the right opponent for his return to the ring.

    While some fight fans would like to see Pacquiao, 34, hang up his boxing gloves following his knockout loss at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez in his last bout in December, the fact that Pacquiao did not have a retirement announcement in the month that followed makes it seem likely that Pacquiao will return to the ring in 2013.

    Pacquiao must choose his return bout carefully. He needs to pick an opponent who can provide enough of a test to show that he has not lost his skills and is still a substantial fighter.

    Here's a look at four opponents (in descending order) who would help Pacquiao resume his career.

    Admittedly, the first two are much stronger potential opponents than the final two.

Juan Manuel Marquez

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    This is the fight that makes the most sense for Manny Pacquiao at this point in his career.

    Whether Juan Manuel Marquez (55-6-1) wants to get back in the ring with Pacquiao has not been determined, but he probably should get back in the ring for a fifth fight with Pacquiao.

    Pacquiao did not have to give Marquez a fourth fight in the series. He was 2-0-1 in the series and had no obligation to give Marquez a chance for redemption. He did, and the Mexican fighter got the knockout he wanted.

    However, Pacquiao was fighting in a very competitive manner against Marquez. Pacquiao responded well to an early knockdown and dropped Marquez later in the fight.

    Pacquiao had dished out quite a bit of punishment and had gotten the best of Marquez in the sixth round in a fairly decisive manner until Pacquiao ran into the knockout punch.

    If Pacquiao gets this rematch and wins in a decisive manner—a one-sided decision or a stoppage—it could set up the long-anticipated bout with Floyd Mayweather.

Timothy Bradley

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    If Manny Pacquiao can't get the Marquez fight, a return bout with Timothy Bradley (30-0-0) would make sense.

    Pacquiao appeared to beat Bradley when the two fought last June, but Bradley gained the split decision in a bout that saw the judges widely criticized

    Bradley is coming off of a victory over Ruslan Provodnikov and is the WBO welterweight champion. Bradley is not a knockout artist—he has just 12 in his career—but he is tough and is in excellent condition.

    A convincing win over Bradley would go a long way for Pacquiao. It would at least put a Mayweather bout in the discussion stages.

Lamont Peterson

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    Lamont Peterson (31-1-1) could be a test for Manny Pacquiao.

    Peterson is the IBF light welterweight champion.

    Peterson knocked out Victor Manuel Cayo in 2011, defeated Amir Khan in a split decision in '11 and he stopped Kendall Holt in the eighth round in February.

    Peterson has a May bout scheduled with Lucas Martin Matthysse. If Peterson can get through that bout, he would appear to be a good opponent for Pacquiao.

Devon Alexander

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    Since losing to Timothy Bradley in 2011, Devon Alexander (24-1-0) has won three fights in a row and has been climbing the ladder in the welterweight division.

    If Alexander can win a May bout against Kell Brook, he would appear to be a solid opponent for Pacquiao.

    A win over Alexander might not put Pacquiao in line for a bout with Mayweather, but a solid stoppage might force analysts to at least consider the possibility.