Now that Manny Pacquiao plans to do what we all figured he would do eventually -- come out of a brief retirement -- the question is: Who should the all-time great fight?
Although he is 37, Pacquiao (58-6-2, 38 KOs) looked superb in his last outing, a unanimous decision against Timothy Bradley Jr. in their entirely unnecessary third meeting on April 9. Top Rank chairman Bob Arum admittedly lost a ton of money on the fight (perhaps upwards of $10 million) because very few wanted to see it for a third time; it tanked on HBO PPV relative to what it cost to put on.
According to Arum and Pacquiao adviser Michael Koncz, boxing's only eight-division titleholder will make his likely comeback on Oct. 29 or Nov. 5 (HBO PPV) in Las Vegas as he juggles boxing and his duties as a newly elected senator in the Philippines. There are several potential opponents, several of which would be interesting, especially since Arum insists he and longtime enemy Al Haymon are willing to make fights together in the wake of the recent settlement of the $100 million lawsuit Arum brought against him last year.
Before I get to my wish list of Pacquiao opponents, a few things:
Arum better not make a fourth fight with Bradley or he might have to fight me on the undercard!OK, I know he won't do that because I am quite certain he is not in the mood to lose another fortune.
I am ruling out a fifth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, who has said repeatedly he is not interested and he also might wind up facing Miguel Cotto this fall anyway.
I am also not including Floyd Mayweather because even if a rematch of the richest fight in history happens someday, there is virtually zero chance it will be this year.
So here's my Pacman wish list for this fall's probable fight:
1. Keith Thurman (27-0, 22 KOs): This would be a great fight and a serious challenge for Pacquiao. Thurman is young, powerful and filled with confidence after his rousing fight of the year contender, a decision win to retain his welterweight belt against Shawn Porter on June 25. Thurman's profile, while not huge yet, is as big as it has ever been after the Porter fight brought in a good audience on CBS in prime time. This is a fight that would require Arum and Haymon to work together, but Arum says it's possible. If so, this match would be an outstanding place to start. I love this fight.
2. Terence Crawford (28-0, 20 KOs): Crawford, a junior welterweight titleholder, was one of the finalists to land the April fight with Pacquiao that went to Bradley. Crawford is skilled, tenacious and an underrated puncher. I think this would be a fascinating fight and one that perhaps could signal a changing of the guard within Top Rank from its old star Pacquiao to its young one in Crawford. Arum mentioned to me that if he did make this fight, it's possible that Pacquiao would drop from welterweight to junior welterweight to challenge for Crawford's title. Of course, for there to be a prayer of this happening, Crawford will have to defeat Viktor Postol in their unification fight on July 23 (HBO PPV) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
3. Danny Garcia (32-0, 18 KOs): He could use a big-name opponent, for a change, and this would fit the bill. Garcia won a vacant welterweight belt in January, so Pacquiao would have a chance for yet another title. More important, I think this would be a terrific fight stylistically. Garcia would be the big underdog but he has been an underdog many times yet always has found a way to win. This is another fight that would require Arum and Haymon to work together.
4. Adrien Broner (32-2, 24 KOs): This was the fight Arum said he and Haymon were working on until Broner, a former four-division titlist, priced himself out of the fight. I'm told Broner was seeking at least $6 million, so Arum ended the talks. Broner then lashed out at Arum on social media with a few choice words we can't print on this website. However, perhaps Broner will come to his senses and they can work out the money. Love him or hate him, Broner would bring spice to a promotion as the villain in this fight. In the ring, it could also be a fun one.
5. Jessie Vargas (27-1, 10 KOs): Vargas was supposed to face Kell Brook in a welterweight title unification fight in September, but the deal fell apart. Brook will instead move up to challenge middleweight titlist Gennady Golovkin, and Vargas was left out in the cold. But Arum said he would find something for his young titleholder, who fought the best fight of his life on March 5 when he knocked out Sadam Ali in the ninth round to claim a vacant belt. A Pacquiao fight might just fit the bill. Vargas does not have the public profile of the others but he is a good fighter and could make things interesting. That said, I think this fight on pay-per-view would be a commercial disaster and I don't think Arum has the stomach for another big money loser.