Ranking the Top Candidates to Fight Manny Pacquiao in 2015

Brian McDonald@@sackedbybmacContributor ISeptember 4, 2014

Ranking the Top Candidates to Fight Manny Pacquiao in 2015

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Can I first say that finding five guys to put on this list wasn't easy? Given the current climate of boxing politics, any fight between a boxer signed with Top Rank and one signed by Al Haymon is DOA.

    Just look at the welterweight rankings from Ring Magazinemore than half the guys in the top 11 are signed with Haymon. Potential fights against Floyd Mayweather Jr., Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman, Amir Khan, Marcos Maidana, Devon Alexander and Robert Guerrero have zero chance of being made.

    That list doesn't even include guys like Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse and Adrien Broner, who could move up from 140 pounds and make an interesting fight against Manny Pacquiao.

    The lack of quality options is in large part what led to us being force-fed a match with Chris Algieri that no one outside the Algieri family has any interest in watching.

    Bob Arum of Top Rank doesn't seem like the type of guy who listens to many people and especially not writers like me, but this list will break down five choices for potential Pacquiao fights in 2015 that would be significantly more interesting than the Algieri fight in November.

    I won't dive into complete fantasy land—what's the point of suggesting a fight that has no chance of being made?—so you won't see any Haymon fighters on this list. That, of course, rules out the dream megafight against Mayweather.

    What you will see are five fights with a chance of being made. They are ranked in the order of interest to boxing fans.

5. Terence Crawford

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    John Peterson/Associated Press

    What Makes This Fight Interesting?

    This is a matchup between one of the current top pound-for-pound fighters against one of the best up-and-coming pound-for-pound fighters. This fight would be between the current top draw on HBO and possibly the next big thing on HBO in almost a handoff-of-the-torch match.

    Both Terence Crawford and Manny Pacquiao display fast hands, good power, elite boxing skill and a tendency to make their fights interesting for the TV audience. The battle between Pacquiao's movement and foot speed against Crawford's ability to control the fight with his jab would be highly entertaining.

    Not to mention that both fighters possess the power necessary to end a fight early.

    Crawford proved with his fight against Yuriorkis Gamboa that he is capable of both performing at a high level and fighting a TV-friendly style. He won over many fans back in June and will have those fans glued to their seats the next time he fights.

    Few non-Al Haymon fighters at or near welterweight possess all three major traits of fighting an attractive style, being a championship-level fighter and being a major draw on TV. Crawford does possess all of those qualities, which makes him an excellent choice for Pacquiao.


    How Easily Can the Fight Be Made?

    I caution to say any fight could be made with a snap of the fingers, but this fight shouldn't meet much resistance.

    Both fighters are with Top Rank, and Bob Arum said after Crawford's last win that he wants to match him up with Pacquiao in the future. The only possible roadblock would be the agreed weight for the fight.

    Crawford is currently a champion at 135 pounds, while Pacquiao has almost exclusively fought at 147 pounds in recent years. With his height and body frame, Crawford should have no problem going up to 140, but the question will be: Does he feel comfortable at 147, or can the two agree on a catch weight?

    This fight is highly unlikely for the spring of 2015 since Crawford will need to move up in weight for a fight or two next spring and summer to get comfortable at a higher weight, but winter 2015 is a real possibility.

4. Kell Brook

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    What Makes This Fight Interesting?

    This would be a unification bout at welterweight against an undefeated fighter; what isn't there to like about that?

    Many doors that were previously shut have now opened for Kell Brook after his impressive victory over Shawn Porter. Brook didn't just win that fight; he made Porter look completely lost and overmatched.

    While Brook doesn't fight with the same level of entertaining style as others on this list, he is a very skilled boxer and can still make an interesting fight on TV.

    Brook showed great accuracy with his jab and timed Porter exceptionally well with counterpunches as Porter lunged his way inside. Both of those skills would be highly useful against Pacquiao, who has been vulnerable to counterpunches in the past. The Filipino might slow down his movement in the face of a stiff jab.

    I wouldn't pick Brook to beat Pacquiao, but it could be a very close and interesting match.


    How Easily Can the Fight Be Made? 

    Brook isn't with Al Haymon, so that potential roadblock doesn't exist. Given the lack of no-brainer options available at welterweight, it would also make sense for Pacquiao and Top Rank to reach for a unification bout if they can't make a deal with a higher-profile fighter.

    Pacquiao obviously isn't going to get a chance to unify the belts against Floyd Mayweather anytime soon, if ever, so why not try to take a belt off Brook?

    Don't forget this fight would also have a chance to make big money not just in the United States but overseas in Great Britain with a bigger international TV audience.

3. Ruslan Provodnikov

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    What Makes This Fight Interesting?

    This shouldn't be a hard sell; who wouldn't want to see Ruslan Provodnikov against Manny Pacquiao? Maybe the family of Pacquiao—in case Provodnikov caught him flush a couple of timesbut this fight would excite most fans.

    Provodnikov and Pacquiao are both offensive fighters who look to win fights by landing punches and not avoiding them. The power of Provodnikov against the speed of Pacquiao would also be a fascinating matchup to watch.

    A fight between these two would have a great chance of meeting or surpassing the classic fight between Provodnikov and Timothy Bradley from 2013, which was named Fight of the Year. Provodnikov will never stop coming forward but is also usually wide open to getting hit, especially against a guy with the speed of Pacquiao.


    How Easily Can the Fight Be Made?

    It won't be easy, but it's not impossible.

    Many of you are thinking about the obvious issue of the two fighters sharing the same trainer. However, trainer Freddie Roach has already said that he would step aside and let someone else train Provodnikov or both fighters if the demand for the fight becomes too great to ignore.

    The fans want the fight. Provodnikov is co-promoted by Top Rank, and Roach is willing to step aside; I don't see a problem too big to overcome in making this fight a reality.

2. Juan Manuel Marquez

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    What Makes This Fight Interesting?

    If you don't know why this fight would be interesting, then I have to wonder why you're even reading this article. To my knowledge, fifth fights between two boxers aren't common, but after the four classics Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez have had, who wouldn't want to see No. 5?

    They say styles make fights, which is certainly the case between Marquez and Pacquiao. The come-forward, constant offense of Pacquiao is a perfect match for the counterpunching of Marquez. Throw in that neither fighter has an iron chin and you have the perfect recipe for a great, all-action TV fight.

    If you need evidence of this, stop reading and go look for one of their four previous fights online.

    OK, you back? I was right, huh?

    A fifth fight would not be beating a dead horse; a fifth fight would be just another great chapter in the series. Did people ever get tired of seeing The Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin in concert? Of course not...they were great and so are fights between Pacquiao and Marquez.


    How Easily Can the Fight Be Made?

    That all depends on Marquez.

    Understandably, Marquez likes where the series stands at the moment with the last image being Pacquiao out cold on the mat. Marquez will likely have to be presented with a very strong reason to put that last image at risk.

    Most likely it will take a big payday and a shot at another title in a different weight class. Mainly, Marquez wants to become the first Mexican fighter to win a title in five different weight divisions; another win over Pacquiao would accomplish that goal.

    Both fighters are promoted by Top Rank, so making the fight would be no issue at all. The win over Mike Alvarado made Marquez the No. 1 contender for Pacquiao's belt, so I imagine it will only be a matter of time before the fifth fight is made.

    If I were a betting man, I would pick a fifth fight against Marquez as the favorite to be Pacquiao's match in the spring of 2015.

1. Canelo Alvarez

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    What Makes This Fight Interesting?

    This is another match that shouldn't need explanation. A matchup between Manny Pacquiao and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez would feature two of the biggest stars in the sport with entertaining styles.

    Neither fighter backs down, and both fighters come forward all night. Both also like to let their hands go; this fight would an instant fight of the year candidate.

    Power versus speed, size versus movement, one big punch versus lightning-fast combinations—Pacquiao vs. Alvarez would be a must-watch fight.


    How Easily Can the Fight Be Made?

    It's easier than most would initially think. The natural reaction to the suggestion of this fight is "no chance it happens," but the changing winds surrounding the relationship between Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank Promotions could make it possible.

    Bob Arum and Oscar De La Hoya have publicly said that they want to start working together again, and the signs have begun to show that it may soon be a reality.

    First, the fight between Bernard Hopkins and Sergey Kovalev was an important icebreaker. While neither fighter is with Top Rank, it will feature Golden Boy working with HBO, which had previously banned fighters signed to De La Hoya's promotion.

    Now, the news comes that Alvarez is a TV free agent, and talks have already begun between his camp, Golden Boy Promotions and HBO in the lead-up to a potential megafight against Miguel Cotto next year.

    Hypothetically, if Alvarez wins that fight, which will mostly likely take place in May or June of 2015, what bigger HBO fight would remain for Alvarez other than a match with Pacquiao?

    It makes sense on so many levels. Not that doing things that make sense means anything in boxing.

    First, what better way to showcase the repaired relationship between Golden Boy and Top Rank than a match between each promotion's biggest star?

    Second, after losing a lopsided victory to Floyd Mayweather in September 2013, I'm sure Alvarez would jump at the chance to avenge that loss in a way by defeating the sport's second biggest star and the only one close to Mayweather's level.

    Last but not least, other than Pacquiao vs. Mayweather, no other potential fight would bring in more money at the box office or on pay-per-view than Pacquiao vs. Alvarez.

    As far as weight is concerned, Pacquiao has gone past 147 before to fight Antonio Margarito, so I think they could reach an agreement on a catch weight. Don't get hung up on the welterweight against junior middleweight angle; that worry is overrated.

    Pacquiao beat up and stopped Cotto, who now fights at middleweight and is likely an upcoming opponent for Alvarez. If Pacquiao can defeat Cotto, Margarito and De La Hoya, who were all bigger men than him, the size of Alvarez shouldn't be a roadblock to making the fight happen.

    Not that Pacquiao would get up to 154 pounds, but Alvarez did agree to a catch weight of 152 pounds for his fight against Mayweather, so there is some wiggle room when making the fight.


    Follow me on Twitter for more boxing opinion and live scoring of big fights: @sackedbybmac