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Manny Pacquiao’s Next Fight: Juan Manuel Marquez, Brandon Rios or Floyd Mayweather

Manny Pacquiao doesn’t want to retire yet. While a lot of people have expressed their concerns about his declining abilities, he is the one who will ultimately have final say on what happens next. So, if you accept the general premise that the Filipino superstar will continue fighting, the next obvious question then becomes: who will his next foe be?

Much as was the case six months ago, there are three real options. You will recall, when he was mining the boxing world for a Dec. 8 opponent, Pacquiao also only had three legitimate options – all guys he had previously fought. Floyd Mayweather Jr., for all intents and purposes, wasn’t in the running because he was fresh out of prison and clearly not in the right frame of mind for a big time bout yet. Ultimately, Pacquiao decided on Marquez; we all know how that ended.

[Related: Floyd Mayweather to Choose Between Canelo Alvarez and Robert Guerrero]

This time around, Pacquiao still has three possibilities for his next fight, but these three options are much more intriguing. In order of likelihood, they are: Marquez (for a fifth time), Brandon Rios (first time) or Mayweather (first time).

The Marquez fight obviously makes the most sense right now. From a financial standpoint, their fourth bout proved to be a massive success (1.15M PPV buys) – generating just a bit less than their third fight had (1.25M PPV buys). Beyond the dollar signs, though, this was actually just a really good bout. It was competitive from start to finish, and the guy who ended the match with a brutal KO was actually losing scoring-wise on every judge’s scorecard.

When asked about fighting his arch rival again, Marquez said this: "I wish my wife would give the green light (permission) to continue boxing and seek a fifth world title."

While Marquez is the most likely option, Rios might be the most fascinating one. You will recall, late last year a wave of buzz began to build regarding these two squaring off in early (relatively speaking) 2013. Rios had essentially “earned” a shot at the Filipino superstar by taking out Mike Alvarado in dominating fashion, and this match-up was seen as a way to get 26-year-old some mainstream love.  

Prior to the Marquez fight, Rios said this when pressed about fighting Pacquiao: “If Bob Arum and Cameron Dunkin want me to fight Manny Pacquiao next, I’ll fight him. Go up to 147, win that fight, come back down to 140, clean out 140, and then go back to 147. It’s not like it’s going to be hard for me to make 147. As you can see, I make 140 pretty comfortably. 147 would be the same sh*t. I’ll clean both divisions out, why not?”

Obviously those comments came before the Marquez loss, but that shouldn’t really make a difference for Rios. He is looking for attention – taking on a declining Pacquiao might be even better for him. If, for whatever reason, the Marquez thing doesn’t materialize – look for this to be the fight that Arum and Top Rank push for.

Finally, it goes without saying that a super fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather is never off the table. If the former agrees to sacrifice the majority of the purse, and if the latter stops creating new stipulations every time Pacquiao agrees to his prior ones, this could happen. The only thing to remember is this: Mayweather will fight Canelo Alvarez in May. That means, if this thing goes down, it has to go down closer to the end of 2013.

Frankly, after the knockout he sustained, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Pacquiao to take an extended break and then fully immerse himself in training for his next big showdown.

[Related: Floyd Mayweather to Choose Between Canelo Alvarez and Robert Guerrero]

What do you think: a.) who will Pacquiao fight next and b.) when?

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