Floyd Mayweather's Next Fight: Breaking Down Money May's Potential Opponents

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistMay 4, 2014

Floyd Mayweather's Next Fight: Breaking Down Money May's Potential Opponents

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    Forty-six down, three to go.

    With Saturday’s tougher-than-expected unification defeat of Marcos Maidana, pound-for-pound kingpin Floyd Mayweather Jr. both added another piece of gaudy jewelry—in the form of Maidana’s WBA welterweight title belt—to his collection and got one step closer to the end of what’s thus far been an unbeaten road.

    The 37-year-old has three fights remaining on the lucrative six-fight deal he signed with Showtime last year, and, if the work schedule he’s maintained since making that commitment—early May, followed by mid-September—holds true, he’ll reach the climactic career moment in roughly 16 months.

    Of course, with every beaten pretender to the throne comes instant conjecture on who’ll be the next in line, and that doesn’t change here. So it’s with that perpetual mandate in mind that we list the top handful of guys likely to be most discussed as the next obstacle between Money and 49-0.

    Got an opinion of your own, feel free to register your views in the comments section.

5. Manny Pacquiao

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    Nah...we don’t think so, either.

    But because it’s been nearly impossible in the last several years to make mention of Mayweather without also including Manny Pacquiao in the conversation, why start now?

    The reality that both fighters are well into their 30s—Mayweather is 37, Pacquiao 35—precludes the idea that we’ll ever see them joined together at their peaks, but if the mountains move and the fight does somehow get made, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t still be a classic.

    Thomas Hearns and Ray Leonard put on quite a second show in 1989, eight years after their first go-round, so we’ll hold out hope that if it does happen, it’ll be worth the wait. Still, if you’re of the betting persuasion, there’s probably a better chance of a Mayweather-Shantel Jackson throwdown first.

4. The Sergio Martinez-Miguel Cotto Winner

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    If you’re looking for a Mayweather match to push the competitive envelope, this is the best option.

    Miguel Cotto, whom Mayweather defeated to win the WBA’s 154-pound title in 2012, will rise to 160 pounds in June when he meets reigning WBC middleweight king Sergio Martinez at Madison Square Garden. And because both Cotto and Martinez are relatively small for that division and each is a former titleholder at 154, the prospect of Money vying for a belt against either of them is at least realistic.

    It’s probably a more likely occurrence if Cotto wins, so those thirsting for a Mayweather-Freddie Roach showdown will want to root for the Puerto Rican. And as for those who’d suggest Gennady Golovkin as a truer test, would you base Mayweather’s 160-pound legitimacy on a win over a guy who beat Kelly Pavlik (in Martinez’s case) or Martinez himself for a belt, or the one who toppled Lajuan Simon?

3. Keith Thurman

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    Florida-based slugger Keith Thurman is beginning to show all the requisite signs of a superstar.

    He’s a young, good-looking kid. He seems completely at ease in front of a microphone. And his tools in the ring are not only stellar, but also eminently watchable—as a three-round destruction of former lightweight champ Julio Diaz most recently proved on Showtime’s air on April 26.

    Add to the mix the fact that he’s the WBA’s mandatory challenger to its new champion—Mayweather—and you may have a master vs. young lion showdown whose time has come.

    If the old man takes the bait, it’ll surely be a compelling match, but the guess here is that it’s more likely to come in another 12 months, after Thurman has had more time to build a mainstream persona.

2. Amir Khan

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    Depending on whose poll you believe, a match between Mayweather and Englishman Amir Khan is already one that the public has demanded. And now that Khan has shown true welterweight chops by beating ex-beltholder Luis Collazo on Saturday’s undercard, it seems the obstacles have been removed.

    It’s a fight that makes sense for a lot of promotional reasons.

    Khan is a recognizable name with a legitimate fanbase. He’s competed on the world championship level at 140 pounds, including a defeat of Maidana in their own Las Vegas meeting in 2010. And aside from two meetings with big punchers where his resistance was proven balky, Khan’s never met a fighter whose skill set has been dramatically superior to his own.

    Mayweather’s never been confused with a one-shot KO artist, so it’s more likely a match between him and Khan would come down to speed and technique—two areas where Khan might not be his equal, but is certainly worthy of inclusion in the same conversation.

    If they can work out the scheduling around Khan’s adherence to Ramadan, look for this one by the end of the year—maybe back in Las Vegas, or perhaps across the pond in London, where a dizzying amount of hype would be sure to follow.

1. Marcos Maidana

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    Marcos Maidana walked into the MGM Grand on Saturday night as a massive underdog. Not many—if any—serious observers gave him much of a chance of unseating boxing’s standard for excellence, but you’d be absolutely crazy not to say that he exceeded expectations.

    In fact, that’s the absolute least you could say.

    Maidana’s pressure attack, relentlessness and willingness to attack from awkward angles kept the usually calm and collected pound-for-pound king on the defensive, searching for answers to a foe who just wouldn’t stop coming.

    He forced Mayweather to a decision that, for the first time since, well, Jose Luis Castillo I, was very much in doubt when the scorecards were read. And while you can quibble with the cards, you can't say enough about the show and effort that Chino put in on Saturday night.

    Let's do it again!