Now that Manny Pacquiao has proven he remains one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world, he and Bob Arum can begin looking ahead to greener and much more lucrative pastures.
Pacquiao's win over Brandon Rios was a good tuneup fight, but it really didn't demonstrate whether he was still at what you'd consider an elite level. While "Pac-Man" wasn't perfect in his unanimous-decision victory over Timothy Bradley, he at least demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that he still commands a ton of respect in the ring and has at the very least a profitable short-term future ahead:
Pacquiao has clearly lost a little off his fastball, but tonight he beat a prime champion widely regarded as a top-five pound-for-pounder.— Bryan Armen Graham (@BryanAGraham) April 13, 2014
Even Bradley admitted that he was the inferior fighter on the night, per ESPN's Dan Rafael:
I have no excuses. Stuff happens. I got nothing to say about it. You can't say nothing against Manny. I lost to one of the best fighters in the world. Manny fought his heart out. I tip my hat to his whole corner, Freddie Roach and his whole team.
The version of Pac-Man we saw on Saturday night was about as good as it's gonna get from here on out.
Looking toward the future, Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix wrote that Pacquiao's likeliest opponent is Juan Manuel Marquez:
Yup, it’s coming. If Marquez gets past Mike Alvarado next month, Top Rank is ready, willing and able to make a fifth fight between two of boxing’s biggest rivals. Now that Pacquiao has a belt, Marquez will be eager to get in the ring with him; he has made it a priority to become the first Mexican fighter to win titles in five different weight classes.
At this point, there aren't too many other opponents Pacquiao could face. Some fans might be turned off by a fifth meeting between Pacquiao and Marquez, but Mannix correctly pointed out that the bout would be a guaranteed moneymaker. Not only that, the two have put on some entertaining matches. There's nothing that makes you think their next possible matchup would be a dud.
The only other logical opponent for Pacquiao at this stage of his career is Floyd Mayweather, and even that doesn't make a ton of sense at this moment. On one hand, you've got a boxer who's lost his knockout power and is clearly past his prime. On the other, you've got a boxer who's aged like a fine wine and recently systematically dismantled a talented opponent in Saul Alvarez.
ESPN's Brett Okamoto can't be the only one who thinks that a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight would be decidedly one-sided:
Loved watching Manny fight tonight, but if he fought Mayweather this year, I'd predict something like 10-2 decision Mayweather.— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) April 13, 2014
But if there's money to be made, you better believe that the promoters will be all over it. Arum went on the offensive to try and goad the Mayweather camp into agreeing to a date:
Bob Arum: The only people who can make the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight is the public by boycotting that nonsense on May 3. (May-Maidana)— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) April 13, 2014
Arum says he is ready "anytime" to negotiate a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 13, 2014
Arum says instead of Maidana, Mayweather should say he is fighting a tuneup fight and sign to fight @MannyPacquiao in the fall.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 13, 2014
Should the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight happen, it would have Mike Tyson-Lennox Lewis written all over it. While that event drew a ton of pay-per-view buys, nobody remembers it fondly at all. Tyson was a shell of his former self and was promptly dispatched by Lewis. The most noteworthy thing to happen was the press conference.
That's kinda the feeling you get about Pac-Man potentially taking on "Money May." Mayweather would do a great job of promoting the bout, and everybody would get excited. Then the actual event rolls around and fails miserably to live up to the hype, leaving a sour taste in fans' mouths.
Nothing will adversely affect Pacquiao's legacy too much at this point in his career, so even if he lost in the first round, he'd still be considered one of the best of his era.
No matter what path Pacquiao ultimately chooses, there really isn't a wrong decision, when you stop and think about it. Either he makes a ton of money and wins another fight or two, or he makes a ton of money, loses and gracefully bows out.
Wouldn't we all love to have that kind of problem?