Boxers with a Realistic Chance to Be Floyd Mayweather's Next Opponent
Despite the big-money glamour associated with the sport, it can still be hard to make a dollar in boxing. The number of boxers who are able to walk away from the sport as financially comfortable is distressingly small.
That's why the opportunity to fight a top superstar like Floyd Mayweather is so coveted. A pay-per-view slot opposite him can set up a smart fighter for life.
Mayweather is scheduled to fight Marcos Maidana on May 3. If everything goes according to plan, he will return to action in the fall, most likely on Mexican Independence Day weekend in September.
These fighters are best positioned to get the call to face him after Maidana.
Shawn Porter is one of the hottest young champions in the sport. Last December, he came from relative obscurity to pound Devon Alexander and claim the IBF welterweight crown after a more high-profile fight between Alexander and Amir Khan failed to materialize.
Porter made his first defense on April 19 against wily veteran Paulie Malignaggi, starching the "Magic Man" in unprecedented fashion and finishing him by Round 4 TKO. The victory placed Porter in sharp contrast to the wildly hyped Adrien Broner, who struggled to beat Malignaggi last year by split decision.
Assuming Mayweather successfully gets past WBA champion Marcos Maidana in May, Porter's IBF belt would be a logical next step. In a lot of ways, the powerful and explosive Porter would make the ideal foil for Mayweather. He is clearly one of the biggest young lions in the division.
But while he has placed himself on the radar of serious boxing fans, his name recognition is still lacking with more casual fans. A Porter vs. Mayweather showdown is a real possibility in the future but probably not this fall.
For much of last fall, Amir Khan appeared to be a very likely next candidate for Floyd Mayweather. But Marcos Maidana's exciting beatdown of Adrien Broner in December bumped him ahead of the Brit in line.
Khan is scheduled to fight on the undercard of Mayweather's pay-per-view next month, and if he looks good and beats veteran Luis Collazo, he will once more be viewed as a favorite for the next spot. Khan gets a lot less respect than he deserves from American fans, but a fight between him and Mayweather would sell well in the United Kingdom and would pack O2 Arena, if Mayweather decided he wanted to fight in Europe before the end of his career.
Despite possessing a suspect chin, Khan is one of the few fighters in the division who has comparable speed to Mayweather. He's hardly a dream opponent for the pound-for-pound king, but I wouldn't be surprised if he gets the nod.
Luis Collazo is probably the biggest dark horse on this list. The 33-year-old native of New York City is 35-5 for his career with 18 knockouts. He briefly held the WBA welterweight title in 2005, but he's basically a journeyman at this point.
But he generated more excitement than he had in nearly a decade last January when he blasted former Mayweather opponent Victor Ortiz by Round 2 KO. If Collazo can upset Amir Khan on pay-per-view next month, he'll be perfectly positioned to become the sentimental choice for a big payday against the sport's biggest star.
It's unlikely but not impossible. If Collazo can upend Khan, he'd be a great choice for Mayweather, particularly if the champ wanted to fight in the Big Apple before retiring.
Erislandy Lara is scheduled to face Saul Alvarez in July. So even if the Cuban beats "Canelo," he might not line up well on the schedule as Floyd Mayweather's fall opponent.
But if Lara beats Alvarez in decisive fashion, expect a loud outcry from boxing fans and media for Mayweather vs. Lara to get made. I've long thought Lara was the toughest potential matchup for Mayweather below 160 pounds.
Lara is a technically sophisticated southpaw and much larger than Mayweather. I'd favor Mayweather to win, but I'd be genuinely curious to see it play out.
And there is no rule that Mayweather has to fight on Mexican Independence Day Weekend. He could push his date back until later in the fall to give Lara enough time to come back.
Miguel Cotto already lost to Floyd Mayweather in May 2012. But it was the most competitive fight for Mayweather in years, with Cotto winning three rounds and bloodying the pound-for-pound king's nose.
It wasn't really competitive enough to justify a rematch. However, if Cotto manages to pull off the upset against Sergio Martinez in June and capture the lineal middleweight title, a rematch would become highly probable.
It would be another big payday for Cotto and a chance to improve on the loss, but with Freddie Roach in his corner this time around. For Mayweather, it would be the chance to win another world title in another division—and this one well above his natural, walking-around weight.
In the last slide, I wrote that if Miguel Cotto can unseat lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez in June, it will make him the front-runner for a return bout with Mayweather in the fall. But I don't expect Cotto to win that fight.
I think Martinez will emerge from that bout with the title still around his waist. And if he can manage it, there is at least a small chance that he becomes Mayweather's next opponent.
A couple of years ago, I would have said this fight was a terrible matchup for Mayweather, who only walks around at about 150 pounds. But Martinez is 40 now, with three surgeries in the past two years. He has always fought with a highly athletic style that is not designed for aging.
In my mind, Martinez is ripe for the taking. I still don't think Cotto will be able to do it. But Mayweather might.
This is the fight everybody has been clamoring for since the early days of the Obama administration. Over a half-decade later, I have no reason to believe we are any closer to seeing it happen.
But this would be the biggest money fight in the history of the sport. For all the reasons I believe this fight will never get made, there are several hundred million reasons to think that maybe it could.
Manny Pacquiao is coming off his biggest win in years over Timothy Bradley. Mayweather has a dwindling supply of pay-per-view worthy opponents to choose from. Both stars are nearing the end of their careers.
I'm still a long way from believing this fight is going to happen. But I'm closer to believing it than I have been in years.
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