Forty-five times Floyd Mayweather has walked into the ring for a professional boxing match. After dispatching Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, 45 times he's left with his hand raised high in the air.
Although judge C.J. Ross didn't see it like most observers did, scoring the fight even at 114-114, Mayweather dominated Alvarez throughout the fight. He seemed unfazed by Alvarez's 15 extra pounds, standing in the pocket for much of the fight and beating Canelo to the punch.
Mayweather was so good he even coined a phrase for the moment—"TBE. The best ever." He never once looked his 36 years, his movement just as crisp in the 12th round as it was in the first. He certainly didn't look like a man at the end of the line. There are plenty of fights to come. The question is not if. It's who?
At this point making fights for Mayweather is a tough task, even for brilliant boxing minds like Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Eric Gomez and CEO Richard Schaefer. Finding a fighter acceptable to both exacting fans and Team Mayweather is quite a challenge.
There are few fighters, no matter how long their resumes, fans will believe have a chance against "Money." Unfortunately, many of them ply their trade on HBO for rival promoter Top Rank. That eliminates some of the most logical choices to challenge Mayweather, fighters like the undefeated Timothy Bradley and surging Juan Manuel Marquez.
Luckily, Mayweather is willing and able to compete across a variety of weight classes. Even though most of his recent bouts have been contested at welterweight, he's small enough that it isn't unfair to match him with top 140-pounders like Danny Garcia.
Likewise, despite being a small welterweight, Mayweather hasn't hesitated to go up to 154 pounds for the right fight, as he did against Oscar De La Hoya and Alvarez. That opens up other intriguing possibilities as he closes out a Hall of Fame career.
After competing twice in a single calendar year for the first time since 2007, Mayweather is likely to take several months off. That will give Golden Boy and Mayweather Promotions time to consider their options. Here are five for them to chew over, in order of preference.
Have some ideas of your own? Let me know in the comments.
Amir Khan was thought to be next in line for Mayweather before a stunning loss to Lamont Peterson completely changed his career trajectory. Peterson's subsequent drug test failure took some of the sting out of the loss, but a fourth-round knockout at the hands of Danny Garcia effectively removed Khan from the Mayweather sweepstakes.
Consecutive wins, a large fanbase and Showtime's complete support have brought Khan's name back into the discussion. A win over Devon Alexander in December would do much to rehabilitate his reputation.
For his part, a win over Khan would give Alexander a heck of a resume. His victim list includes the scalps of Lucas Matthysse and Marcos Maidana. Alexander is a slick and unassuming southpaw, the perfect foil for the brash Mayweather.
That's a double-edged sword in a way. Alexander says and does all the right things and is more boxer than fighter. That's why most casual fans have never heard of him—and why he likely isn't on Mayweather's radar yet. A win over Khan could change that—and quickly.
Adrien Broner (right)
There's a lot to like about either man testing himself against Mayweather. Adrien Broner is the heir apparent to "Money," aping his mentor's style both in and out of the ring. Maidana is an Argentinean buzz saw, the kind of aggressive fighter Mayweather loves to feast on.
As both are Al Haymon and Showtime guys, they are also fights that are relatively easy to make.
The only thing standing in the way is Broner's refusal to fight Mayweather. But those refusals have been for theoretical fights. Faced with a contract that has seven zeroes on it, Broner may suddenly decide that he and the champ can go back to being friends after taking care of a bit of business first.
Sergio Martinez (right)
When Roy Jones got bored wiping the mat with the best light heavyweights in the world, the ones he would deign to fight at least, he decided to make a bold move. His physical and mental dexterity were too much for men his own size. Why not try his luck with the brutes in the heavyweight class?
In many ways, despite vast differences in style and technique, Jones and Mayweather are eerily similar. Mayweather, too, has dominated his weight classes. Mayweather, too, has been accused of avoiding difficult matchups. Might he also follow Jones' lead into uncharted waters?
Jones beating John Ruiz for heavyweight gold was arguably his greatest accomplishment. It was certainly his boldest move in a career full of cautious fights.
How amazing would it be to see little Floyd Mayweather step up to middleweight and follow a similar course? Roberto Duran did it. So did Sugar Ray Leonard.
Mayweather took Alvarez's best shot, standing and trading. The extra weight made no difference. Mayweather was too smart and too skilled for it to matter. Could Mayweather beat Sergio Martinez, the reigning middleweight kingpin, the same way he outclassed Alvarez?
That's a question that may be too hard to answer. After all, Martinez has been an HBO fighter for years. So is Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the most popular fighter in the class.
But Peter Quillin, the WBO champion, is an Al Haymon guy like Mayweather. He doesn't have a high profile, but he's a legitimate middleweight. Would that bulk alone be enough to sell the fight? I'd buy. How about you?
Look, Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer and Showtime boxing czar Stephen Espinoza aren't stupid. They didn't spend millions of dollars for a high-profile bout between Lucas Matthysse and Danny Garcia, and then put the fight on the undercard of this extravaganza instead of in a headlining spot on Showtime later in the year, for no reason.
They were clearly looking to the future and the tough job of creating an opponent fans believe can beat Floyd Mayweather. In theory, it's foolproof. Garcia has the credentials to carry his end of a megafight. And now, after the sports world has seen him in action, he has the increased profile too.
Garcia stood in the pocket with Matthysse, the strongest puncher in the world at 140 pounds. He took every shot the Argentinean threw and never changed expression, even as his mouthpiece went flying through the air in the 11th round.
You couldn't help but be impressed, not just by Garcia's beard, but by his own fierce combination punching. Before the bout, all the talk was about Matthysse. In every high-profile fight he's contested, Garcia was the underdog. If he fights Mayweather, he will be again. He seems to thrive in the role.
This is a very savvy play by Schaefer, Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe and Showtime. If it works, you're looking at the template for creating money fights that HBO will surely lift. It just makes sense.
There is a stain on Floyd Mayweather's permanent record. For all his glory, all his success, all his money, if he retires without facing Manny Pacquiao, that will be what people remember most about his career. What he didn't do, rather than all the things he accomplished, will be his lasting legacy.
Mayweather is likely right when he says Pacquiao is fading as a fighter, that he's damaged goods. But, in truth, Pacquiao's losses to Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez won't prevent a Mayweather bout from being the biggest fight of either man's career. They can even sell this fight if Manny somehow loses to Brandon Rios this winter in China.
People want this fight, and boxing needs it. Mayweather does too, if only to bury forever the accusations that he was afraid to fight the best.