When Top Rank announced that they had signed an agreement with Manny Pacquiao to extend their promotional agreement through the end of 2016, a collective groan was heard throughout the boxing community.
The ink drying on the contract signaled what could likely be the last window to a potential Mayweather-Pacquiao fight being slammed shut. Not that the extension was the only mitigating factor that has prevented the pugilistic money bonanza from taking place. But the dream that Pacquiao would take the Miguel Cotto free agent route in order to land the Mayweather fight before both fighters backslid into a pool of deterioration appeared to be within the realm of possibility.
So now that the Mayweather-Pacquiao hopes have gone up in a cloud of smoke (again) and boxing scribes have resuscitated an already dead and buried horse only to beat it again, a bigger issue is now revealing itself.
Who the hell is left for Manny Pacquiao to fight?
Looking into the crystal ball, the immediate future holds a fifth fight between Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. It’s a big money fight considering that the words “knocked out” accompany Google searches for Pacquiao thanks to Marquez’ decimation of the Filipino the last time they encountered one another in 2012.
But then what?
The bigger issue that the house that Bob Arum is holding together on the shaky legs of aging fighters is the lack of intriguing opponents for Pacquiao to fight. The fact that a fifth fight with Marquez has even come into play as the primary option is bad enough. But you will be hard pressed to find a name among Top Rank’s welterweights that the general public will not meet with a shrug of indifference aside from Ruslan Provodnikov. If you look at the top ten welterweights and junior welterweights, you’ll see that they are either Al Haymon fighters, Golden Boy fighters, Showtime fighters or a combination of all three. At 140, Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse and Adrien Broner would all be formidable opponents if it wasn’t for the fact that they live on the other side of the fence. The same can be said for Marcos Maidana, Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman and Amir Khan at 147. If Pacquiao were to carefully venture to 154, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez could be a massive fight if he was an Arum guy. But, alas, he’s not.
So what does this leave Manny Pacquiao with?
He already beat up Brandon Rios. Mike Alvarado – who split a pair of fights with Rios – was thoroughly outclassed by old man Marquez. He’s beaten Timothy Bradley once officially, although it should be twice. And…that’s it.
That is really it. More importantly, there are no young welterweights on the horizon that could rise up to the challenge. Terence Crawford and Yuriorkis Gamboa are two potential names that could eventually end up with a Pacman fight. However, Gamboa’s horrible business sense and the fact that Crawford could walk into a room and nobody would have a clue who he is areboth problematic .
And considering that Pacquiao is no longer the one-sided draw like that Mayweather fellow – who has set himself up with an intriguing rematch with Maidana due to the madman's strategy or simply overlooking him the first time around – Top Rank has one hell of a task on their hands when it comes to generating casual fan interest. The moment Pac hit the deck against Marquez, the invincible aura that made him must-see television whether he was fighting a man, a Scooby Doo van or a tomato can were all shattered.
The pay per view returns on his last two fights – Brandon Rios and Timothy Bradley – were disappointing with Rios selling 500k and Bradley hovering around 750k. The gate on his rematch with Bradley ended up being his lowest in years. Arum won’t admit it, but he certainly is panicking. Without another marquee name in his stable to match Pac with, those PPV numbers could continue to drop.
The problem with Pacquiao is that he’s not nearly as polarizing as Mayweather and no longer pummels his opponents beyond recognition. This version of Pacquiao who hasn’t knocked out an opponent in nearly five years (Cotto in 2009), just isn’t the same contradiction of Bruce Banner outside the ring and The Incredible Hulk inside the squared circle that was intriguing on so many levels. He is in dire need of a dance partner and Top Rank doesn’t have very many to offer now and the future is looking bleak as Pac's career begins its slow stroll down the highway of retirement.
Bob Arum needed Pacquiao to agree to an extension so he could continue cultivating the market in Macau and ensure that his cash cow didn’t join the superfriends over at Showtime. Pacquiao didn’t need to sign with Arum. The more intriguing options for opponents are over at the house that Richard Schaefer and Oscar De La Hoya built and is in a state of flux and becoming a free agent would have sent a jolt into boxing fans. Can you imagine the dialog on social media regarding Pacquiao’s next move? Mayweather wouldn’t be able to use the lines drawn in the sand as an excuse.
Even if the Mayweather fight didn’t happen immediately, the depth of talent across the tracks would breathe new life into Pacquiao’s career. Wouldn’t you like to see Pacquiao vs Broner as a precursor to Pacqiuao-Mayweather?Pacquiao-Khan could be an international blockbuster as well. A showdown with Keith Thurman would have every purist giddy with the inevitable war that would take place. There are multiple paths away from Top Rank yet only one now that he has opted to stay. If the most captivating fight after Pacquiao-Marquez 5 is Pacquiao-Marquez 6, well, we’re screwed.
Remember when Arum was campaigning for fight fans to boycott Mayweather-Maidana due to the perceived lopsided odds? He may soon have to consider boycotting his own fights if something doesn’t change soon.
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