If it seems like Manny Pacquiao’s options for who to fight next are extremely limited, it’s because they are. Whereas in years past the Filipino star essentially had half of boxing’s top pound-for-pounders to choose from, the talent pool he is looking at now is far more shallow. Part of that is the byproduct of his back-to-back losses. When your star is fading, fewer people will forego other opportunities to fight you. Part of it, however, can also be attributed to the ridiculous civil war currently pervading the sport, limiting fight possibilities to a fraction of what they were once were.
At this point, realistically, Pacquiao can fight one of three people next: Juan Manuel Marquez, Timothy Bradley or the winner of Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado (read: Rios).
During a recent interview with the Manila Bulletin, Top Rank boss Bob Arum acknowledged this much. He noted that his camp’s upcoming fights would be some mix-and-match combination of those four.
“I’ve got four guys and after the March 30 rematch between Rios and Mike Alvarado they will sit down with me and we’ll figure this thing out,” he said.
“Manny might fight Rios if he beats Alvarado or he might fight Bradley in a rematch or Marquez in a fifth fight. I’ve got four attractive fighters and we'll mix and match them.”
While Arum has to convey the message that all options are on the table right now, the reality is that there’s no way he will pit Pacquiao against Rios. At this stage in his career, Rios has a very good shot at beating his Filipino counterpart. If that were to happen, Pacquiao’s career would basically be over. And while that would hold true no matter what if he loses his next match, the Rios fight doesn’t guarantee Pacquiao (and, by extension, Arum) the biggest pay day available. No, the biggest pay day available would come via a Pacquiao-Marquez V showdown.
Similarly, pitting Pacquiao against Bradley again makes little sense. Their first bout did bad numbers, and that was before anyone knew how dull a bout between two boxers who can’t knock anyone out would be. A second one would do even worse. It’s hard to imagine that enough people saw Bradley’s admittedly impressive showing versus Ruslan Provodnikov to change that. (Then again...)
At the end of the day, Pacquiao-Marquez V is the bout that makes the most sense for all involved. And Bradley-Rios, depending on which Bradley comes out, has the potential to be interesting as well.