Floyd Mayweather Jr. no longer needs to prove himself. A 46-0 record offers all the evidence he needs of his credentials as one of boxing's true greats at his weight class.
However, the longer a so-called streak goes, the more the public wants to see the challenges get tougher. Mayweather's last fight, a majority-decision victory over game battler Marcos Maidana, hardly pleased spectators.
Writing for USA Today Sports, Bob Velin pointed out the crowd was less than thrilled with either the fight or the judges' ruling:
For the 46th time 46 career fights, Mayweather, 37, came into the post-fight news conference a winner. And this time it was also as the world champ carrying the WBA and WBC welterweight titles.
But it was not easy, a close, majority decision, much to the displeasure of the sellout crowd of 16,268, a partisan Maidana crowd that booed vociferously when the result was announced.
The controversy surrounding that bout naturally makes Maidana a strong candidate for Mayweather's next opponent. He is joined by two other fighters, neither of whom is Manny Pacquiao.
British thumper Amir Khan is an intriguing potential opponent for Mayweather. Khan is not a fighter who houses a feared haymaker in his arsenal.
Instead, he is more of a classic pugilist, with a style defined by quick striking and combinations. That makes him the type of fighter who can test Mayweather close in.
The veteran is one of the sport's most intelligent and intricate punchers. It would be interesting to see if he could teach Khan a lesson in the art of combination striking.
Khan's major problem is the proverbial glass jaw. That's not an ailment a fighter wants to possess against a striker as sudden and ferocious as Mayweather.
Khan's attempts to work his way close enough inside to let his quick hands do some damage, while avoiding the big shot, would make for fascinating viewing.
Bleacher Report boxing columnist Lyle Fitzsimmons identifies Khan as a logical next opponent in the following video:
Khan is certainly keen on a meeting with Mayweather. He was frustrated at being overlooked in favor of Maidana, per another report from Velin. Yet fans shouldn't expect the fight to happen too soon.
Mayweather is next scheduled to step between the ropes in September. Due to Ramadan, Khan would be unable to fight during that month, per David Mayo of MLive.com.
Mayo contends only Mayweather shifting the date to later this calendar year would allow Khan to fight. But a fight in early 2015 now seems more likely.
A probable strategy is that Mayweather puts Khan off until the new year while entertaining another opponent this September.
Luis Carlos Abregu
Another intriguing possibility for Mayweather is a battle against Luis Carlos Abgregu. The Argentine's career was derailed by an injury to his right hand that kept him out almost 12 months.
But Abregu has been in good form since his return. He bested Venezuelan Jean Carlos Prada via an eight-round TKO, per Ringtv.craveonline.com reporter Lem Satterfield.
He is currently ranked second in Maywether's welterweight class on the World Boxing Council official site.
What makes Abregu interesting potential competition for Mayweather is his punching power. Unlike Khan, Abregu can land the big shot to decide a fight in a single blow.
Putting him in the ring with Mayweather would be a good test of the undefeated champion's agility. Mayweather is an artist at dodging major shots.
But his success avoiding Abregu's power would reveal how much spring the 37-year-old still has left in his aging legs.
Maidana certainly opened a few eyes, not least Mayweather's, when he pushed the champion all the way. His constant close-quarters brawling style consistently unnerved Mayweather.
ESPN.com writer Brian Campbell highlighted the pace Maidana set as a key to his surprising performance:
We all knew Maidana’s best shot at finding success would come by cutting off the ring and smothering Mayweather with a flurry of awkward punches from various angles. What we didn’t know was that Maidana would still be fighting at relatively the same pace for the entire 12 rounds.
Maidana never buckled under the mental and physical fatigue that inevitably comes once Mayweather’s patented midfight adjustment opens the door for him to land a series of flush right hands to the face. The Argentine slugger was able to do that by maintaining a hellish pace and overwhelming Mayweather with volume, which never allowed him to properly set himself or get comfortable for a prolonged time.
A Maidana-Mayweather fight is the classic contrast in styles. The Argentine mauler is not as strategic or technically proficient as the champion. But Maidana might just have the tenacity and energy to outlast Mayweather in a rematch.
Both fighters are reportedly receptive to the idea of mixing it up again, according to Sports Illustrated-affiliated blog Counterpunch. It's a clash of boxing cultures sure to draw a crowd.