Who’s next for Pacquiao?

Ed C. Tolentino

Ed C. Tolentino

At age 35, after 395 rounds spread in nearly two decades, it appears that Manny Pacquiao is not ready to archive the gloves.

Pacquiao gave himself at least two more years in the ring following his 12-round unanimous decision over American Timothy Bradley Jr. for the World Boxing Organization welterweight (147 pounds) championship. Pacquiao, whose fighting skills have been under microscopic scrutiny since his numbing knockout loss to Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez in December 2012, showed that he can still compete at the elite level when he dominated Bradley with his superior technical ability and handspeed. A humbled Bradley, who absorbed his first defeat in 32 fights, conceded after the fight that Pacquiao still has what it

Admittedly though, Pacquiao is fighting on borrowed time. At his age, and considering the boxing mileage he has accumulated, Pacquiao can bog down any time. While he has once again emerged as a marquee pugilist, Pacquiao is no longer in a position to keep a hyper-active fight schedule; he can only go after the fights that will truly cement his legacy.

From where this writer sits, Marquez and American Floyd Mayweather Jr. are the only adversaries worthy of consideration for Pacquiao’s grand finale. It is easy to scratch Marquez from the list after he was outclassed by Bradley in October 2013, but Bradley’s slick boxing approach was really the ideal antidote to Marquez’s counterpunching style. Against a fighter like Pacquiao, who has a tendency to lunge in, Marquez’s counterpunching tends to flourish.

Marquez is booked to fight American Mike Alvarado on May 18 (Manila time) and he has to come up with an impressive performance if he is to secure a fifth showdown with Pacquiao later this year. For now, the loss to Bradley is being treated by experts as an aberration, but another setback would confirm that Marquez is already a shot fighter. At age 40, Marquez is already in his dog years.

The undefeated Mayweather is easily the most formidable opponent for Pacquiao. Heck, Pacquiao can forget about another fistic date with Marquez if a fight with Mayweather becomes available. A victory by Pacquiao over Mayweather will reduce into a footnote the loss he suffered to Marquez. Then again, Mayweather continues to avoid Pacquiao like a dreaded virus. Amid calls from boxing fans to boycott his upcoming fight with Marcos Maidana, Mayweather refuses to have anything to do with the Pacman.

Last we heard, Pacquiao is contemplating on moving down to the junior welterweight class (140 pounds) to face some of the recognizable names in the division, but the last thing boxing fans want to see is the Filipino taking on a clone of Mayweather (Adrien Broner) and not the real deal. In the 140-pound division, Pacquiao will be left with hush puppies like Danny Garcia, Amir Khan and Ruslan Provodnikov, fighters who are better off facing each other than Pacquiao. Pacquiao is already in a different level and he does not need fighters of this ilk.

Yet another name that has cropped up is Mexican junior middleweight (154 pounds) Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. A wide-bodied slugger, Alvarez (43-1, 31 knockouts) is set to fight Cuba’s Erislandy Lara on July 12. Pacquiao held the World Boxing Council junior middleweight championship in 2010, although he never really weighed the maximum 154-pounds and fought only at a catch-weight. Expect the same scenario if the Alvarez fight materializes.

Pacquiao will have some serious thinking to do. Moving down to 140-pounds will all the more make it difficult to arrange a fight with Mayweather as the American is unlikely to shed weight. Then again, a Marquez fight at 140-pounds is possible considering that the Mexican can still make the junior welterweight limit. A fifth fight with Marquez in the junior welterweight division will also favor Pacquiao, who is arguably too small at welterweight and is likely to regain his knockout prowess at 140 pounds.

On the other hand, moving to 154 pounds to fight Alvarez will keep the Mayweather fight alive as the American is more comfortable fighting in the 147-154-pound range.

In terms of prize money, Pacquiao will be in for a financial windfall as Alvarez has a solid following in Mexico. Then again, for somebody who has already admitted that he is not a natural welterweight, scaling 154 pounds may be too much for Pacquiao.

Pacquiao’s boxing journey will come to an inevitable end and fans can only hope that he will choose his wars well to give his career the blazing finish it deserves.

For comments, the writer can be reached at atty_eduardo@yahoo.com.


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