Yes, there is one fight that makes more sense than others, but since it seems like we are more than likely to see the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight in Neveruary, the question begs: Who should Pacman fight next?
Promoter Bob Arum is hashing that out as we speak. But I weighed in with boxing's poet laureate, Larry Merchant of HBO, and asked him, speaking as a fan, who he would like Pacquiao to fight next.
"Someone like Brandon Rios," said Merchant, who next shows up on HBO air Sept. 8, for the Andre Ward-Chad Dawson scrap. "At 143 or so. Someone like that. Tough, aggressive, a go-for-it fighter, who makes the fight." Merchant noted that of course the ability to help conjure an audience is a factor and that he isn't sure if Rios passes that test, like a Juan Manuel Marquez does. (Marquez' third scrap with Pacman did 1.4 million buys, while Timothy Bradley, who it could be argued like Rios doesn't have an immense fanclub, mustered 900,000 PPV buys in his tango with Pacquiao.)
What about Timothy Bradley? Would Merchant not like to see "The Decision" clarified? Help reduce the swelling from that recent black eye for boxing?
No, it turns out. "My problem with a rematch is if the Bradley rematch, which I think can happen anytime, is the next one, it fans the conspiratorialists, who will say (a dubious decision was rendered to encourage drama and impetus for an immediate rematch)."
Merchant told me that he has suggested to promoter Bob Arum that he have a card topped by Pacquiao vs. Brandon Rios, with Bradley fighting fan-friendly banger Mike Alvarado underneath. "After that, if Pacquiao and Bradley won, then a rematch would be OK," he said. "But to make that rematch after such a bad decision, that leaves a bad odor."
To sum it it up, this is how Merchant views rematches, by and large. "A rematch is warranted when the first one was a terrific fight, and people say, 'I want to see that again.' There's not a call for a rematch to deal with a bad decision."