Manny Pacquiao has narrowed down his list of potential opponents for early 2014. It’s going to be Floyd Mayweather Jr., Timothy Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez or Ruslan Provodnikov.
Seeing as Pacquiao just fought Brandon Rios this month, it’s safe to assume that he and Top Rank are aiming for a mid-year return. The last two times he fought in November, he came back in May and June of the following years. Prior to that, when he fought Miguel Cotto in November 2009, he came back the following March against Joshua Clottey. But that that was a different period in his career.
Although Pacquiao, at age 34, now requires more time to recover, he also realizes that he’s on the clock. His days in the sport are numbered, and with his financial wellbeing in at least some question at the moment, it would make sense for him to maximize the amount of paydays he has remaining.
Either way, though, regardless of when he comes back, the Filipino star’s options are pretty much etched in stone. During a recent interview with Dan Rafael of ESPN, Top Rank boss Bob Arum said it would be Bradley, Marquez or Provodnikov
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"It'll be one of those guys," he acknowledged. "We're going to get it done sometime this month I hope. I want to start promoting it. What we're hoping to do is get Manny over here in January to do press conferences for the fight and also to do rallies in places like Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C., for relief for the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines."
Although he didn’t explicitly mention Mayweather’s name, it’s impossible to ignore how much Arum has discussed a potential Mayweather-Pacquiao super fight in recent months. Obviously that’s a legitimate option, too.
Pacquiao versus Mayweather would give both fighters a marketable, bona fide PPV hit. Something none of the alternatives can guarantee. Pacquiao against Marquez has the potential to do legitimate numbers as well. A fight against Bradley would be less commercially successful, but Bradley’s willingness to make it happen makes it the likeliest option. Provodnikov’s name was mentioned out of politeness, nothing more.
One way or another, we should find out who Pacquiao and Mayweather are facing off against next sometime this month.