It may be a bit early for this, since both Pacquiao and especially Martinez have big upcoming bouts next month. However, Pacquiao is widely expected to defeat Antonio Margarito, and oddsmakers have Sergio Martinez vs. Paul Williams even right now, and Martinez seems to have the popular momentum.
If those two events happen, and Mayweather again backs out of a match with Pacquiao, then Manny Pacquiao against Sergio Martinez could easily become the best and biggest match in boxing.
The Pacquiao-Margarito fight, between two of Top Rank promotions' fighters, will surely be one of the biggest fights this year, but interested observers are already eying Pacquiao's next move. The obvious first choice would be Floyd Mayweather Jr., as it has been for years now.
However, the fact is that Mayweather didn't even want to fight Pacquiao without distractions, and surely won't want to with his upcoming court case and potential prosecution.
Mayweather is absolutely one of the two best fighters in the world, and has fought an impressive resume of opponents, but always shies away from the bout with Pacquiao, who most believe is the only fighter in Mayweather's division(s) who could possibly defeat him.
The truth is that, while Mayweather is a great fighter and excellent fodder for sports journalists, he is not the person who is looked at as the face of boxing. Pacquiao is, and the impetus is on him to keep top-level matches entertaining for as long as he keeps fighting.
Setting the Stage
So barring an unlikely upset loss to a rusty and flesh-fisted Antonio Margarito, Pacquiao will have won world titles in a record eight divisions by the time 2011 rolls around. A natural option would be to try to pursue a title in a ninth division, and put his record in the realm of Joe Dimaggio's hitting streak and other sports records that could forever remain unbroken. Middleweight is the next division up for Pacquiao.
The first thing that would need to happen would be for Sergio Martinez to avenge his 2009 loss to Paul Williams in their November 20 rematch. This is no small task. Williams won the first bout and Martinez certainly isn't an overwhelming favorite in the rematch.
Why Williams-Pacquiao Probably Wouldn't Happen
Williams is a crafty, awkward fighter with a 6'1" frame and an extraordinary reach for a middleweight, and is among the most dangerous in the world. If Williams defeats Martinez in November, I think it would be unwise for Pacquiao to challenge him. Williams is two inches bigger than anyone else Pacquiao has ever fought, and with his talent level, he could easily become the first fighter to stop the Filipino in years.
But Sergio Martinez vs. Manny Pacquiao Could
Unlike Williams, Martinez is fairly short for the middleweight division. At only 5'10", Martinez (a former two-sport star before becoming a boxer) has made it to the top on sheer athletic ability. But he obviously belongs at the top. He was close to defeating "boxing's most avoided fighter" in his loss to Williams last year, and skillfully dispatched Kelly Pavlik in April.
And there would be huge incentive for Martinez to fight Pacquiao too. If Martinez defeats Williams, he would have three potential fights other than the Pacquiao bout: a rematch with Kermit Cintron after last year's disputed draw, a third match with Williams, or a bout against light middleweight Miguel Cotto.
Cintron simply isn't a hot commodity. Martinez would have a lot to lose and little to gain in this fight.
Williams-Martinez III would be a great rubber match, but the fighters could both have a fight or two in between the second and third bouts.
Cotto would be an interesting fight, as the 5'7" Cotto would help us see a new side of Martinez, but Martinez would probably have to drop down to light middleweight and the fight still wouldn't be a huge one.
Why Pacquiao-Martinez is So Appealing
Pacquiao is boxing's top dog right now and a lot of his recent fights have been snoozers due to Pacquiao's dominance. His 2009 win over Cotto was lopsided but the fight was still the most competitive one Pacquiao has been in since he beat Juan Manuel Marquez in early 2008.
Since Juan Manuel Marquez is now about four weight divisions south of where Pacquiao is fighting right now, that match would be unlikely to happen, so Martinez is the most compelling.
Sergio Martinez is in a division that Pacquiao would probably like to put his stamp on if he can't fight Mayweather. Martinez is the most handsome fighter in boxing right now, and is extremely popular - aside from Pacquiao and Martinez, he may be the most buzz-worthy man in boxing right now.
He's got star power and a lot to like about him. Men like him, women like him, and he's inarguably one of the top seven pound-for-pound fighters in boxing right now. If he beats Williams, he could be ranked No. 3 on that list.
Going middleweight would be a stretch even for Pacquiao, who is 5'6", now in his thirties, and can't possibly scale the weight classes indefinitely. But Martinez would give Pacquiao a good fight. He's rugged, he's athletic, and at 5'10" has an obvious size advantage against Pacquiao, but isn't untouchable. Pacquiao has beaten De La Hoya and is fighting Margarito, who are both taller than Martinez.
Martinez would be a good opponent and is willing to fight anyone right now. The major question, obviously, is whether Martinez can get past Paul Williams, which remains to be seen.
This fight may not be the one most likely to happen, or anyone's first choice, but it would certainly be an entertaining and illuminating match, and could be the best option available if a few things happen: Pacquiao beats Margarito, Mayweather doesn't fight Pacquiao, and Martinez beats Williams, thereby becoming a titleholder with a lot to offer for Pacquiao's legacy.
Two consecutive weekends in November will be the key. Pacquiao's November 13 fight against Margarito and Mayweather's response to that will play an obvious role. Then Martinez would need to find a way to overcome the crafty Paul Williams on November 20th. So a lot remains to be seen, but this potential fight is one that is definitely worth talking about.
Until November, let the speculation begin.