Things were very simple in the days immediately following Manny Pacquiao’s stunning knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez. He either would retire or he wouldn’t. That was the lone major decision on the table. Surely enough, a few days after everyone got over the shock of seeing the Filipino superstar laying face first on the mat, it was determined that he would in fact fight again.
The next logical step was determining who his foe would be. That too proved to be a lot simpler than many envisioned it would be. Given how his last bout ended and the financial success it generated for all involved, it made sense to stage a fifth Pacquiao-Marquez fight. Boom, another issue settled without breaking a sweat.
The third and final matter at hand was Pacquiao’s recovery time; when you are on the wrong end of the sort of hit that knocked him out cold on Dec. 8, you need some time to get your you-know-what together. In an effort to let the Filipino star recover at his own pace, it was decided that he would only fight once in 2013 – in September.
Just like that, in the span of a few weeks, it seemed like Pacquiao had a very logical, very reasonable strategy on how to attack the new year.
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But then Top Rank boss Bob Arum and Pacquiao’s advisor Michael Koncz realized that the year is a lot less profitable when you fight only once. And when that realization slowly crept in, this happened:
“While I was on vacation (in Cape Town, South Africa), (Pacquiao adviser) Michael (Koncz) reached out to (Top Rank matchmaker) Bruce Trampler, saying they want to fight in April,” Arum told the Manila Bulletin recently.
April, for those of you keeping track at home, is well ahead of the September target date that was initially mentioned by Pacquiao’s camp.
The question that should pop into everyone’s mind when talk turns to Pacquiao making an April return is: what about the NSAC? You will recall, following the Marquez fight, the Nevada Athletic Commission told Pacquiao that he wasn’t permitted to fight for four months and that he couldn’t engage in any contact for three months. The former restriction isn’t a problem – four months expires before April. The latter, however, means that Pacquiao can’t spar.
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“It didn’t say that he can’t train,” Arum offered.
Isn’t there an easier solution to all this than trying to tip-toe around the wording of the NSAC’s medical suspension? Yes, and Pacquiao’s friend Rex “Wakee” Salud recently offered it up during an interview with the Manila Bulletin (a different one).
“That’s a bright idea by Top Rank chief Bob Arum, but Pacquiao can’t fight in Las Vegas in April maybe, I guess, somewhere else,” Salud said.
“It’s all speculative at the moment because we all know that Manny can’t fight until April and he can’t train. You just cannot simply allow him to fight once the suspension is lifted."
Robert Guerrero’s name has been mentioned with increasing frequency as of late, but it’s doubtful that anything will materialize on that front. At the moment he looks like the most likely contender to take on Floyd Mayweather Jr., and that bout makes too much sense for all involved not to put together right now. Pacquiao can probably offer the same sort of financial incentive as Mayweather, but in terms of career boost, beating him -- after two consecutive losses -- wouldn’t do as much for Guerrero’s career.
Brandon Rios is the most likely option for an April Pacquiao fight, and even that doesn’t seem particularly promising. His heart seems to be set on a rematch with Mike Alvarado next, which all things considered is probably the right move.
Either way, it goes without saying that if Pacquiao needs an opponent for April 2013 – he’ll get one. He is a walking, talking career payday for anyone in boxing not named Floyd Mayweather Jr. The suitors will be there if he really wants them.
Does he really want them, though?
That one-fight plan was sort of brilliant; it permitted the Filipino star to rest up and relax. It allowed him to heal fully without having to rush back into the ring. It gave him the opportunity to train for a full year for Marquez and his new Arnold Schwarzenegger-in-his-heyday physique. It just made so much sense. Are all involved really willing to scrap it for the sake of one additional payday?
What happens to the fifth Marquez fight if Pacquiao loses for a third consecutive time in April?
The next few weeks will be very interesting. How Top Rank plays Pacquiao’s schedule in 2013 will likely determine precisely how much time he has left in boxing.