Sergio would be fun; bet on Khan
Who should Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight next? Easy: Manny Pacquiao, naturally. Outside of the fighting congressman from Sarangani, what opponent could Floyd find to make an equally big, or even bigger, statement? Why, Sergio Martinez, of course.
But Mayweather isn't the kind of man who feels the need to make a statement. He genuinely believes his fists have said all that needs to be said about his place in boxing history; and though fighting Martinez would be an eye-popping challenge, he certainly could not truly be chastised if he chose not to pursue it.
Perhaps the more relevant question is not who should or could Mayweather fight next, but rather who will he fight next? I doubt if even Floyd knows that for certain right now, but if I had to lay a bet on any one name, I wouldn't be at all surprised if in 2012 Mayweather mixes it up with Amir Khan.
In many ways, it makes perfect sense. It would renew the rivalry between the Mayweathers and Freddie Roach without having to involve Pacquiao or, more importantly, Bob Arum. Khan has been calling Mayweather out and Mayweather has shown enough interest to respond. And while Khan -- a good fighter but far from a great one -- might not be taken much more seriously as a challenge in this country than was Victor Ortiz, on the other side of the pond the contest would be huge.
Mayweather genuinely enjoyed the experience of fighting Ricky Hatton in 2007. He didn't care that the overwhelming majority of those in the MGM Grand Garden Arena that night were singing and chanting for his opponent; what mattered was that literally tens of thousands of fans had made a long journey to see him fight.
Mayweather enjoys nurturing that interest. Recently, he invited British fans and media in town for Khan's bout with Zab Judah to watch him train at his Las Vegas gym. A few days before his bout with Ortiz, Mayweather expressed to reporters his belief that he is much more beloved in the United Kingdom than in the United States. He has spoken often of his interest in fighting in Britain.
Plus, Britain in 2012 will be the center of the sports world, as a result of the London Olympics. That's a spectacle that could provide Mayweather -- arguably the savviest self-publicist boxing has seen since Muhammad Ali -- the kind of stage he craves.
The Olympics run from July 27 to Aug. 12; if Khan wants to take one fight at welterweight before tackling Mayweather, he could do so in April or May. That would allow the Khan-Mayweather clash to take place in, say, September -- the perfect bookend to a summer of British sporting frenzy that will also include Wimbledon and England's likely participation in soccer's European championship. Or both sides could agree to forgo any preliminaries and stage a belt holder-versus-belt holder clash in May or June to kick off the festivities.
At this stage of his career, Mayweather is uninterested in bowing to demands from others who tell him whom he should fight. What he wants now is to amass money, create a spectacle and feel the warming glow of the spotlight. Taking on Amir Khan in front of 70,000 fans at Wembley Stadium would give him all he is looking for. It wouldn't shock me one bit to see it happen.
Expect Berto, but Canelo is close
As the dust settles on Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s controversial but highly profitable knockout victory over Victor Ortiz, there are a number of questions that boxing fans and writers would love answered. Will Mayweather fight again, and if he does, when and against which opponent?
One thing that's certain is that Mayweather will return. A man who professes to be in the "check-cashing business" would surely find it hard not to return to the ring after such an easy $25 million payday against Ortiz. Mayweather, unburdened by any promotional deal, is guaranteed to make money against any opponent of his choosing. Let's not forget: He may be an inactive and divisive fighter, but he's a highly profitable one when he finally laces them up.
The general consensus in boxing circles says the next man to try his luck against Mayweather will be Amir Khan. Under the tutelage of Freddie Roach, the fast, slick Englishman has dominated the light welterweight division in recent years, and after a December defense against Lamont Peterson, he plans to move up to welterweight. In fact, Khan already has joined the desperate chorus calling for a Mayweather match.
But in recent years Floyd has proved to be averse to speed merchants like Khan. Ortiz is young, but his slower, plodding aggression was a custom fit for Mayweather's style. Khan is a risk, both in terms of power and speed -- a combination Mayweather has balked at in the past. Fans should not expect that fight anytime soon.
A more likely opponent for Mayweather is Andre Berto. They share Al Haymon as an advisor, so negotiations shouldn't be a problem. And although fans and writers alike have been critical of Berto's past opponents, there's no denying that his style is both physical and exciting. His often-lax defense mixed with raw power makes for exciting fights. (Look no further than his win against Jan Zaveck and defeat at the hands of Ortiz.) Berto may have weaknesses, but they often lead to great spectacles in the ring.
As boxing fans, we're entitled to dream, and outside the nightmarish failed negotiations between Mayweather and Pacquiao is a trove of fighters who are capable of generating excitement if given the golden ticket to a Mayweather fight.
Some adamantly suggest Sergio Martinez, others the winner of the Cotto-Margarito fight. But what about a young fighter who is a few fights away from possibly transcending the sport, Saul "Canelo" Alvarez? A typical Mayweather rest period spans (alas) at least a year. That's enough time for Alvarez to fight a few more times and expand his popularity outside of Mexico, where he already is one of the nation's biggest sporting stars. Mayweather-Alvarez could be a monumental fight a year from now. Meantime, we can dream.
In a sport of few certainties, there is one that sticks out like a stiff jab -- namely, that Mayweather will always march to the beat of his own drum, one that continues to drown out the calls of the boxing world for him to fight a certain congressman from the Philippines.
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