Manny Pacquiao has fired the opening shot.
The proverbial ball now lies firmly in Mayweather’s court.
Since Golden Boy and Team Mayweather made the decision to schedule Floyd’s next bout on March 13, all signs point towards a battle not taking place in the ring, but in a pay-per-view showdown where fans will decide the winner with their remotes.
''Mayweather vs Pacquiao'' is dead…at least for the time being.
The seemingly endless negotiations descended into certifiable lunacy before an impasse of two weeks left us with the moribund state that we are now faced with.
So it has come to this.
Boxing is again reduced to a humiliating sub-plot. Fans will not be privy to who the better fighter is on March 13. Instead they are forced to make do with who is the better draw.
Under-whelmed? You have reason to be.
Nevertheless, we are forced to digress. Although this is not what legions of fans wanted to be faced with on March 13, a direct comparison such as this one allows some pertinent questions to be answered.
Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather are the two biggest stars of boxing today.
That is without debate.
The major advantage lies with ‘Pac-man’, however. Anyone who can carry a whole nation on his back when attempting to sell a fight imposes a distinct handicap on his pay-per-view rivals.
Pacquiao’s PPV prowess is such that if Mayweather is to present a legitimate threat, it is imperative he selects a worthy contender to be his dance partner.
Of course the short notice compromises the list of potential opponents as many highly ranked fighters already have bouts marked in their diary.
With both fighting on the same night this imposes an obligation upon ''Money'' to prove that he doesn’t ‘cherry-pick’ opponents and is willing and able to fight the best the sport has to offer.
It presents Mayweather with the chance to bolster his argument regarding his reasons for abandoning retirement and returning to the squared circle.
It was he, himself, that cited to Sky Sports that ‘extending his unbeaten record and enhancing his legacy’ prompted his return earlier this year.
Even Mayweather’s most fervent of supporters would surely begin to question his motives if he were to share a ring on March 13 with the likes of Nate Campbell or Matthew Hatton.
Neither one represents a genuine threat to Floyd’s unbeaten streak.
In Campbell’s lone venture at 140lbs. he was overpowered by Timothy Bradley. Who, incidentally, is smaller and less seasoned than Mayweather.
It beggars belief that Matthew Hatton’s name has been suggested as a potential opponent, if we consider that the younger Hatton’s best result was a draw against a past prime Lovemore N’dou.
Pacquaio’s opponent Joshua Clottey has a certain cachet that many of Mayweather’s prospective March 13 combatants lack.
He is universally recognized as a Top 5 genuine Welterweight. What he lacks in skill or power he makes up for with relentlessness, heart and a sturdy chin.
So the bar has been set.
Selecting an opponent which falls dramatically short of such a lofty mark will not only cause Mayweather to reconsider his nom de guerre but expose him to further and seemingly justified ridicule.
It’s high time Floyd put his ‘Money’ where his mouth is.
Originally, I had planned to offer five fighters but having carried out some research I realized there are not five available fighters which can be justified as opponents for Mayweather. Even three is a push.
3. Paulie Malignaggi, 27(5)-3
I really ummed and ahhed over this one. He’s really only on the list because (1) he’s a name, and (2) He’s resilient and could perhaps sit in their with Mayweather for twelve rounds.
Malignaggi is coming off a career salvaging victory against Juan Diaz. In which he displayed a renewed vigor en route to out-boxing ‘the baby bull’ for at least ten of twelve rounds.
The main argument against such a bout lies with Malignaggi’s size. He is a legitimate light-welter but his recent bouts against Juan Diaz took place at below the 140lbs weight limit.
Malignaggi’s greatest attributes are his speed and dexterity, it is entirely credible to think that such skills would be neutralized if he were forced to bulk up.
Still, Malignaggi remains the most notorious fighter at either 147 or 140 which remains available for a March date.
2. Kermit Cintron , 32(28)-2
I have really warmed to the idea of this bout since he was first whispered as an opponent.
Cintron would pose a legitimate threat to Mayweather, especially when you consider he would enter the ring as the bigger and stronger man.
''El Asesino'' carries a solid record with his only losses coming at the hands of Antonio Margarito. Defeats which many now dispute after the ‘plaster-gate’ revelations.
Fighting at the Welterweight limit of 147lbs would not be a problem and he’s undeniably explosive at either weight.
I envisage a tough night for Mayweather but forecast him boxing his way to a UD and going some way to silencing critics who accuse him of picking on smaller men.
1. Timothy Bradley , 25(11)-0
The most credible opponent who is yet to have a fight finalized for the first quarter of 2010.
Bradley is unbeaten and has been quietly but assuredly laying waste to the top contenders at 140lbs.
A venture up to 147lbs or even a catch-weight around 145lbs resulting in a loss would do no harm to Bradley’s legacy. Meaning that he would enter the fight with very little pressure and everything to gain.
Of course there will always be the dissenters to such a bout. Once again accusing Mayweather of fighting smaller guys.
That would be slightly blinkered in my opinion.
Bradley has fought taller and rangier fighters than Floyd in the past. Both Kendall Holt and Lamont Peterson were dispatched with relative ease.
Most importantly I think this would make for the most intriguing bout of them all. Although Bradley is still somewhat unheralded, he is unbeaten, fast, strong and skilful and would force Mayweather to be at his very best if he were to retain his ‘0’.