The two preeminent fighters of the era have already notched wins this year, and each man was impressive in his own way.
Floyd Mayweather remained undefeated by edging past menacing marauder Marcos Maidana on Saturday at the MGM in Las Vegas, while Manny Pacquiao soundly whipped Timothy Bradley last month at the very same venue.
Both fights went the distance, and both wins added more weight to each man’s already impressive legacy.
But what’s next?
For Mayweather, a majority decision and a tough, close fight is outside the norm. Most Mayweather fights are not close, and almost everyone who tuned in to see him face Maidana over the weekend thought this fight would be no exception.
But Maidana did just about everything right against Mayweather. He applied pressure on him, forcing Mayweather into uncomfortably close quarters. He established a pretty decent jab against Mayweather, something few thought he could do. And he let rip thunderous shots on Mayweather from every angle possible.
The only problem? It didn’t work. Mayweather closed nicely over the last half of the fight and won a close and competitive bout.
A rematch with Maidana is on the table, but at age 37, one has to wonder how many fights Mayweather has left in his career, and if he really wants to use one of them for a rematch with Maidana.
Moreover, while the fight with Maidana was close, a second fight might be a hard sell for Showtime and company. Maidana did just about everything he could do against Mayweather the first time around but couldn’t get the job done. Would a second fight be any different?
Still, the list of potential opponents for Mayweather seems sparse, especially if he sticks to his normal schedule for the year and plans on fighting in September. Neither Keith Thurman nor Shawn Porter seem quite ready to face him, and Amir Khan, who badly wants a crack at Mayweather and has the hand speed to compete with him from a distance, will be unavailable.
Khan, a Muslim, told Mlive.com’s David Mayo he’d need time to train after coming off the strict dietary restrictions of Ramadan, which takes place in July this year:
I can't take that fight. I need a couple of months to work on my strength and conditioning. If Floyd wants to fight in November sometime, if it can't be done in September, then I'm happy for November. If not, then it'll have to happen in the future.
So what should Mayweather do? It seems most appropriate for him to try and cash in overseas with a fight against Khan.
Mayweather has never fought outside the United States, and a bout in the United Kingdom could bring him in a boatload of cash.
More importantly, while Maidana gave Mayweather a very good run, Khan might be able to give him an even better one.
Khan’s long arms and fast hands are a tough out for anyone, and Mayweather’s legacy would be bolstered by him facing as many styles as possible, especially since a bout with Pacquiao seems unlikely to happen.
As for Pacquiao, his win over Bradley proved he is still one of the very best fighters in the world. Suffering a knockout loss the way he did to Juan Manuel Marquez back in 2012 is a hard thing to come back from, but Pacquiao did it.
Perhaps even more impressive, Pacquiao whipped someone in Bradley who was coming off a win over Marquez in his previous fight. Bradley was undefeated, at his peak and ranked in the top three or four of virtually every pound-for-pound list in the world.
And Pacquiao won convincingly.
Top Rank seems to want the winner of next weekend’s Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Mike Alvarado bout to fight Pacquiao next, and that’s the logical move.
Marquez will be the favorite, but Alvarado is a live dog. A win by Marquez over Alvarado proves the 40-year-old still has some gas left in the tank. A win by Alvarado proves he can rise to the next level as a fighter.
Either fight would be an interesting matchup for Pacquiao.
The absolute best thing for Pacquiao, though, would be a Marquez win. That’d give the 35-year-old Pacquiao another crack at his great rival. Marquez was proud of his one-punch knockout win over Pacquiao in their fourth fight, but Pac-Man’s official record remains 2-1-1 over him.
If Pacquiao could defeat Marquez a third time, there would little left for him to accomplish. He’d have faced just about every notable fighter he should have during his fine career, except for Mayweather, and come out the better.
Finally, the elephant in the room to where each man’s final place among the pantheon of greats will rest will depend on whether the two ever share the ring together and the result of said experience.
Mayweather would be a prohibitive favorite in the bout, especially this far away from Pacquiao’s prime, but Pac-Man would still present an interesting puzzle for Mayweather to solve. He’s fast, skilled and quite adept at creating angles.
Don’t get your hopes up, though. The fight is not nearly as big now as it would have been back between 2008 and 2011, and there’s no reason to think it will get done before one of them retires.
In the meantime, focus on enjoying the exploits of each man in 2014, two of the finest fighters who have ever lived. The age of Mayweather and Pacquiao will not last forever, and memories of each man’s exploits are much longer than the road that stretches out ahead.