Former eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao will fight one more time on April 9 next year and then retire to answer a greater call, hopefully one from the Senate hall. While many are taking Pacquiao’s announcement with the proverbial grain of salt, up-and-comers and established names in the sport are all lining up in the hope of being picked as the Pacman’s last ring partner.
Several names have cropped up, but at least three are apparently in the short list: former junior welterweight (140 pounds) champion Amir Khan, reigning World Boxing Organization (WBO) junior welterweight king Terence Crawford, and the supposedly retired Floyd Mayweather Jr. Promoter Bob Arum is flaunting Khan or Crawford, but Pacquiao also told reporters that he is “negotiating” for a rematch with Mayweather.
Mayweather’s camp has assiduously denied any negotiation with Pacquiao and Arum himself is ruling out any sequel to the “fiasco of the century.” Truth be told, it would have been easy for Pacquiao to negotiate with Mayweather had he followed the latter’s advice to bolt out of Top Rank and be his own man. Mayweather is correct: Pacquiao, owing to his stature in the sport, no longer has to be exclusively tied to any promotional company. The lesser the humps on the road, the smoother the negotiation would have been between the two megastars.
With Arum still at the helm, Khan (31-3, 19 knockouts) and Crawford (27-0, 19 knockouts) make for the top two picks. Briton Khan is the bigger name and Pacquiao may be interested because he already knows what his former sparring partner will bring to the ring. Khan’s fragile jaw (he has been stopped by Breidis Prescott in one round, by Danny Garcia in four rounds and came close to being stopped by Marcos Maidana) also make him enticing for Pacquiao. The fight will make money, but owing to Khan’s hit-and-run style it could end up being a stinker, too.
Crawford, named 2014 Fighter of the Year by the prestigious Boxing Writers Association of America, is still a work in progress but everybody likes what they see. Crawford started meriting serious attention in June 2014, when he poleaxed Cuban mauler Yuriorkis Gamboa in nine rounds. Crawford briefly held the WBO lightweight (135 pounds) diadem before moving up in weight to collar the WBO junior welterweight strap in April with an impressive sixth-round knockout of Thomas Dulorme.
Nebraska-native Crawford offers an intriguing and dangerous style. He is almost the complete package, with the ability to switch hit, box and slug. The 28-year-old champ is a methodical fighter who breaks down his foes one round at a time. In pulverizing Dulorme at 140 pounds, Crawford showed that the additional weight did not dissipate his power.
Between Crawford and Khan, it is Crawford who will seriously test Pacquiao’s mettle. Khan offers the occasional glitter, but Crawford is the serious hitter. Weight may be an issue as Crawford is relatively new in the junior welterweight class while Khan is more comfortable fighting anywhere between 140 and 147 pounds (the welterweight limit). Then again, considering the truckload of cash he stands to earn, Crawford is likely to consent to whatever demand Pacquiao may make regarding the weight.
The London-based Daily Mail recently announced that Khan has agreed to terms with Pacquiao, but Arum shot down the report with a verbal Uzi. Arum stressed that he has not sent a draft contract to Crawford or Khan and that everything is contingent on Pacquiao’s choice.
A decision is expected from Pacquiao before the year ends. Of course, whether the April 2016 bout is really Pacquiao’s swan song makes for a different story.
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