Manny Pacquiao's Next Fight: Ranking the Best Potential Opponents

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2014

Manny Pacquiao's Next Fight: Ranking the Best Potential Opponents

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Twenty-two months and three days after perhaps the most infamous fight of his Hall of Fame-worthy career, Manny Pacquiao returned to Las Vegas on Saturday night and once again entered a ring with Timothy Bradley in the other corner.

    Lest anyone forget, Bradley won a split decision over Pacquiao on June 9, 2012, earning him the World Boxing Organization's welterweight title belt, but little else in acclaim because nearly every fan, media member and otherwise interested party thought the Filipino had won by margins ranging from decisive to shutout in nature.

    Saturday night's victory by unanimous decision for Pacquiao added a more satisfying chapter to the tale of Pacquiao and Bradley, and its aftermath naturally leads to questions about the next step in the seven-division champion's career journey.

    We've read the tea leaves and come up with some ideas of our own. Click through to see who made our list and feel free to drop your views in the comments section.

4. Floyd Mayweather Jr.

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    OK, just wanted to see if you were paying attention.

    Given the vitriol that's been exchanged from one side to the other through the years as Floyd Mayweather Jr. has shared a stage with Pacquiao, it's only barely more likely as of now that the two will ever fight than it was at the depths of the myriad impasses between the camps as time has gone on.

    It's still a matchup that fuels arguments, and it's probably still one that people would pay big money to see, but even the most optimistic among us has probably relegated it to more of a fantasy than a reality at this point.

3. Ruslan Provodnikov

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    If there was a poll among fans asking which appropriately promoted fighter in the corridor between 140 and 147 would make the most exciting fight, it's a fair bet that the "Siberian Rocky" would win a consensus.

    His showdown with Bradley in Bradley's first fight after the June 2012 match with Pacquiao was a classic, and given Pac-Man's history as a guy who responds to combat with a smile and a smack of the gloves, what's not to like?

    The fact that they're both trained by Freddie Roach presents an issue, but if enough people suggest they'd pay $70 to see it, who's to say warm sentiment would get in the way?

2. Mike Alvarado

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    Julie Jacobson

    In much the same way that Provodnikov would present an interesting and exciting challenge for Pacquiao, so too would Mike Alvarado.

    The Denver slugger had two memorable scraps with Brandon Rios and went toe-to-toe with Provodnikov before finally succumbing, and his spot on the pecking order here is conditional based on the result of his scheduled match in May with four-time Pacquiao foil Juan Manual Marquez.

    If Alvarado upsets the veteran Mexican tough guy, he'll climb to another level on Pac-Man's radar.

1. Juan Manuel Marquez

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    Yes, you have heard this before.

    Pacquiao has already fought Marquez four times at four distinct contracted weights (126, 130, 144 and 147), yet the most decisive result of the previous quartet was Marquez's stunning one-punch KO when they met after the initial Bradley fight in December 2012.

    Putting it together for a fifth time might seem like overkill, but it's still a worthwhile matchup between two guys at least arguably still among the 10 best fighters in the world.

    And as long as they make good fights together, why stop?