Who will Manny Pacquiao fight in 2013? That seems to be the main question dominating any and all discussions involving Top Rank, the Filipino champ himself, and the general makeup of boxing's top pound-for-pound rankings.
Be it because we have already seen this dance before, or because people are just generally more intrigued by the unknown, it doesn’t seem like there is really all that much discussion going on right now about Pacquiao actual next bout. You know, that Dec. 8 showdown versus Juan Manuel Marquez that has generated next to no buzz over the past few weeks.
Obviously the preferred opponent for Pacquiao’s early 2013 fight would be Floyd Mayweather Jr. It goes without saying that, hands down, a Pacquiao-Mayweather showdown would be the one and only match-up that all boxing fans (casual and diehard) could agree they would happily drop pay-per-view dough on. But what if it doesn’t happen? This is a showdown that has been discussed for three years – yet it’s never actually materialized.
Is there a Plan B?
Recently, Bob Arum came out and said that the winner of last Saturday’s Brandon Rios versus Mike Alvarado fight might get a shot at Pacquiao. Rios ultimately won that match, and he did so in dominating fashion. Afterward, both he and his camp did interviews indicating that they would love to square off against the Filipino champ in 2013.
The idea has picked up a lot of steam over the past few days. It has become so popular, in fact, that HBO announcer Larry Merchant actually took the time to weigh in on it during a recent interview with The Examiner’s Chris Robinson.
“A younger brawler against Pacquiao I think would be a fight everybody in boxing and people beyond boxing would like to see,” Merchant said.
“I’ve been saying for a while, that Pacquiao needs a fighter who will come to him and fight him.” Merchant continued. “But it’s also the kind of young, tough guy who you might not want to see in your face all night long. You don’t get the answers until you see the fight, I’ll just leave it at that. I think he’d be a great opponent for Pacquiao and vice versa.”
He might be right. Initially, the idea of Pacquiao-Rios in 2013 wasn’t especially tantalizing. Particularly when compared to the alternative. However, after seeing the way Rios performed last Saturday – it’s hard to say that he hasn’t at least earned consideration. He’s definitely a more interesting fighter than Timothy Bradley.
Obviously Pacquiao-Mayweather is what everyone wants to see. But if by some off chance it doesn’t happen – Pacquiao-Rios could end up being a really solid alternative.