I'm supposed to be in the middle of a self-imposed two week hiatus from boxing writing to prepare for final exams, but I simply have to chime in on this issue. Bob Arum has narrowed the list of Manny Pacquiao's next opponents to Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley and Andre Berto.
And of course, Floyd Mayweather Jr.
According to many sources, Mosley is the frontrunner right now, but I think a Pacquiao-Mosley matchup would be yet another travesty for boxing fans who want to see the world's top fighter take on a quality, top-ranked foe.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is obviously everyone's top choice, but barring that, I think that the choice between the fighters on Arum's short-list should be simple.
There is only one fighter from that list who deserves to fight Pacquiao, and that's Juan Manuel Marquez.
The Mexican boxer has had an excellent year in 2010, and is one of the few fighters who is in contention for Fighter of the Year. He has also proven to be an excellent opponent for Pacquiao, and there's a decent chance that Pacquiao-Marquez could turn into one of the all-time classic trilogies.
The other two choices are unappealing and hard to justify. Unlike Marquez, who is coming off two consecutive wins against big opponents, Mosley is on a two fight winless streak. A lopsided loss to Floyd Mayweather and a controversial, but still unimpressive, draw with journeyman Sergio Mora.
Andre Berto, on the other hand, doesn't have any recent record in major fights because he really hasn't been in any. He is unquestionably an excellent talent and a very good fighter, but it's just hard to fathom someone going from fighting Freddy Hernandez to fighting Manny Pacquiao in his next fight.
That's one heck of a promotion, and Berto hasn't proven he deserves it. He hasn't yet proven he can fight against someone the caliber of Miguel Cotto or Joshua Clottey, let alone the man who dominated those two former champions in consecutive fights.
Aside from Mayweather, there is only one Pacquiao fight I would pay to watch: Juan Manuel Marquez. This should be the bottom line for Bob Arum. The first pay-per-view I ever ordered was Pacquiao-De La Hoya. It was an excellent fight.
I paid for the Hatton fight. Some friends and I pooled together money to watch Pacquiao-Cotto, which was a quality fight. I wisely skipped ordering the Clottey fight, and (thanks to Bleacher Report Featured Columnist King J) was ringside in Dallas when Pacquiao fought Margarito.
The fact that I wouldn't pay for a Pacquiao-Mosley fight or a Pacquiao-Berto fight is significant. I'm a serious boxing fan. One who has reached over 100,000 readers, and I'm the kind of person who is the "boxing hub" of my social group.
If I decide to bring my friends to watch a fight at a sports bar, or my place, I want to feel like there will be some drama and excitement.
Boxing is sagging in popularity because so often the promoters go for a big money, no risk, fight. If fans are ponying up money to watch a fight, they expect a good show, in one way or another. The way Bob Arum has been handling Pacquiao's recent fights, it seems like he has lost touch of that fact. This is the first time in four years that Pacquiao hasn't been a frontrunner for Fighter of the Year.
There may be a safer sure-bet option in matching Pacquiao with someone like Mosley or Berto who is unlikely to give him much competition, but in the long run, for Pacquiao's reputation, boxing's popularity and Bob Arum's pocketbook, Pacquiao-Marquez III is undoubtedly the best option.
It will give Pacquiao the chance to prove that he can win convincingly against Marquez (which I predict he would do). It would give him a famous trilogy, like Gatti-Ward or Ali-Frazier. Pacquiao has been criticized lately for only fighting opponents who are coming off a major loss.
He has been criticized for not fighting people in the pound-for-pound top 10 and he has been criticized for only fighting brawlers, not technically-skilled boxers. There are only three people who can help Pacquiao shake all three criticisms: Mayweather, Sergio Martinez (whom Arum has ruled out) and Marquez.
More importantly, he is the person who is most likely to make the fight one that will create longstanding boxing fans. Marquez always delivers excitement in big fights, and if Pacquiao isn't fighting Mayweather, then Marquez is the next best thing.