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Floyd Mayweather is expected to face either Marcos Maidana or Amir Khan on May 3rd at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. Of the two proposed options, Maidana makes the most sense to me, something I’ve already opined about enough. In short, I think Maidana earned the bout with his shocking upset of Adrien Broner last December, and I would rather see Mayweather face someone who comes at him and throws punches from all angles.

But truth be told, neither Maidana nor Khan really stand much of a chance against Mayweather. Though brave, Maidanda would be too easy to hit, and for all his speed Khan wouldn’t be able to sustain anything noteworthy over 12 full rounds against Mayweather. Each man would have his moments against the aging great, but only in spurts. Mayweather would likely defeat both by decision rather widely.

But just because the two men Mayweather wants to fight next don’t have much of a chance to beat him, doesn’t mean there aren’t opponents out there who do. After all, Mayweather isn’t exactly known for seeking out his best opposition.

Therein lies the problem for predicting who will defeat him, or at least who would stand the best chance at it.

In reality, Mayweather has many more options than the two proposed for May 3, Maidana and Khan. In fact, I think we should evaluate where those two opponents land in the overall scheme of who Mayweather, the best in the sport, should actually be considering for his next bout. While Top Rank and Golden Boy don’t work together, Mayweather is the one fighter in the sport who could cross that line and work with both if he only wanted to. As he likes to often point out, he calls the shots.

So for me, before I get to either Maidana or Khan on the list of who Mayweather should fight next, I have to first cross off Erislandy Lara, Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley and Danny Garcia, who in my opinion easily outrank Maidana and Khan as potential opponents. Moreover, I believe welterweight Shawn Porter and junior middleweights Alfredo Angulo (who would’ve ditched Canelo in a heartbeat for a fight with Mayweather), James Kirkland and Demetrius Andrade grade out evenly or even slightly above Maidana and Khan as opponents.

There are two groups of candidates. The first are opponents Mayweather would likely never fight for one reason or another. Let’s call these guys Category A. These aren’t “wishful thinking” fights that border on asking him to do too much, so no Gennady Golovkin or Andre Ward on the list. Rather these are legitimate tests one should expect an undefeated fighter in the twilight of his career to undertake, especially someone espousing himself as the best ever.

First and foremost in Category A is Manny Pacquiao (of course). For all the reasons your favorite Money Team friend gives you for why Mayweather has not and/or never will never fight Pacquiao, the truth of the matter is simply that Mayweather sees Pacquiao as too great a risk. Pacquiao has a rare combination of speed and power that can give any fighter fits on any given fight night, even the mighty Mayweather. This one has been beaten to death, though, so let’s move on.

A relatively new entry into Category A is No. 1 ranked junior middleweight Erislandy Lara. Mayweather holds an alphabet title at 154 and is also the lineal TBRB champion. But Lara’s larger natural frame, southpaw stance and Cuban boxing style would be a tough puzzle for Mayweather to solve. There’s little chance he’d be able to outbox the longer Lara from a distance, and walking towards a laser-punching stalwart like Lara down is bad news for anyone (ask granite-chinned Alfredo Angulo). Mayweather will avoid Lara like the plague.

Undefeated welterweight Timothy Bradley is great at nothing but good at everything. It makes him a tough out for anyone at welterweight, and his ability to adapt to different styles has helped vault him up numerous pound-for-pounds lists. But like Pacquiao, Bradley has a double whammy going against him. First and foremost, he’s good enough to beat Floyd. Second, he’s promoted by Bob Arum.

Category B consists of people Mayweather is more likely to face before he retires. That means the risk they pose to him is less than those in Category A and Top Rank does not manage them. Moreover, and despite Mayweather’s titles at both 154 and 147, it means these men campaign at welterweight and below. Also note that any junior welterweight would likely have to come up to 147 to face Mayweather. He takes all the advantages he can get.

Before moving onto discussing the two men I feel who have the best actual chance of handing Mayweather a loss (meaning they both have the ability and might actually get to fight  him), I first want to propose a dark horse candidate. Shawn Porter is undefeated and holds the IBF welterweight title. These two things would make him an attraction for Mayweather, who likes to hand fighters their first losses and collects alphabet straps to help bolster his claim at greatness. But Porter seems to really have come into his own against Devon Alexander last December. He didn’t just use his natural advantage of physical strength in the bout. Rather he showed real boxing skill and strategy against a solid fighter. His natural ability and improving skill set make him someone to watch going forward, and I could see him posing problems for Mayweather.

That being said, if Mayweather is to lose before retiring, the man to do it will either be junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia or undefeated welterweight Keith Thurman, and here’s why. Garcia would appear at first glance to be out of his league against Mayweather. But Garcia is the unassuming type who almost always appears to be out of his league. He was an underdog against both Amir Khan and Lucas Matthysse, and he dominated both with relative ease. Moreover, Garcia swings for the fences enough to keep Mayweather cautious and careful, and his power has grown enough over his last few fights to make one believe he could hurt Mayweather if he lands clean.  Garcia might be able to get Mayweather to lead with a long right hand that Garcia could counter with one of his hard hooks. A hurt Mayweather would not take risks, and Garcia could eke out a narrow decision.

Thurman, on the other hand, might be Mayweather’s worst nightmare. He’s tall, lanky and powerful and he has shown real skill and strategy as he’s moved up the ranks. Thurman is the type of puncher who can put anyone to sleep with either hand. But he’s smart enough to not rely solely on power. This makes him dangerous the way Thomas Hearns was back in the 1980s. Don’t get me wrong: Thurman still has much to prove. He has some nice wins on his resume, most notably Jesus Soto Karass, but he hasn’t yet faced staunch enough competition to warrant a Mayweather bout. But Thurman’s talent should keep him winning, and his connection to Al Haymon should help him land the megafight when the time is right. And when he does, don’t be surprised if he pulls out the win. In fact, I’m predicting he’s the one that eventually keeps Mayweather from reaching 49-0.

Other News and Notes

-Middleweight Andy Lee is seeking a fight against Gennady Golovkin. That would make Lee one of the few Top 10 middleweights who actually want to fight GGG, something I think should be commended.

-It appears more and more likely junior middleweights Erislandy Lara and Ishe Smith will meet on the undercard of Mayweather’s May 3 card. While it won’t be visually appealing, it should help the winner grab a bout against another top name.

-Super middleweight Bryan Vera will rematch Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on March 1. Many thought Vera deserved the nod in the first fight, but Vera told me he’s going for the knockout this time around. Don’t be surprised to see him sit down on his punches more and make it a slugfest.

-In reality, I believe Mayweather should be pushing the envelope his last few fights and going after guys like Sergio Martinez at middleweight. But I can’t see Mayweather ever moving up to test himself like that. Can you imagine if Mayweather had fought during the time of Hagler, Hearns, Leonard and Duran? Would he have faced any of them?

-I’ve been denied entry into the Boxing Writers Association of America a couple of times, but sentiments like this from Bart Barry make it all worthwhile. I certainly would’ve liked to have been considered a boxing writer by the BWAA membership committee when I applied, but since everyone else seems to consider me one, I suppose that’s good enough.

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