Every boxing fan is hoping that the midnight Friday deadline will not pass without Mayweather agreeing to meet Pacquiao but where does Manny go if Floyd does find an excuse to avoid the fight?
Not surprisingly, there aren't a lot of attractive options. Let's take a look, starting with his current weight class, 147.
Unfortuantely, 147 has become a wasteland of talent thanks to the efforts of the Pacman and Mayweather. It is hard to picture a fighter currently in this group that generates any real interest beyond "let's see what round Pac drops him in." Pac's done Clottey and Mayweather exposed Mosley this year. It's hard to picture much enthusiasm for Manny to beat a guy who Mayweather handled so convincingly. Berto is a slilght possibility but his lack of recognition - partly caused by his recent lack of activity and partly by his lack of true quality opponents - makes him a tough sell for a fight with Manny. What else is left at 147? The only "name" in the top 10 that we haven't covered is Judah. Pac vs. Judah? Don't make me laugh.
OK. So 147 doesn't present a lot of opportunity. How about 140? No one can argue that there is a ton of talent coming up at that level. There are just 2 problems. First, it's pretty questionable if Manny would even be willing to drop back a level to take a fight at 140 and, let's be honest, none of the guys at 140 is stupid enough to fight him at 147 or anything in between. In the end, what does Manny have to prove at 140? Does anyone seriously doubt that he would handle Bradley, Khan or any of the other young talent amassing at that level? More important, the second problem for a fight at 140 - do any of the young guns managers see any reason to risk a multi-year meal ticket on a fight with Pac? Seriously, Bradley, Khan, Alexander, etc. can spend the next 5 years fighting amongst themselves and make a nice chunk of change. Why put that in jeapordy for a single fight that is almost a guaranteed loss? There is one other name that keeps floating around as a possibility for Manny - Paulie Malignaggi. I'd rather see the Judah fight. It's laughable that Paulie even comes up as a potential opponent.
Fine. 140 isn't looking full of promise, we'll move Manny up to 154. He's the man, he can handle it and there has to be some good talent up there. Well, not so much. Cotto may be the best fighter at 154 and we've seen what Manny can do with him. The fight wasnt' close enough to merit a rematch and, if one does happen, it's put together solely so that Manny can get another belt at yet a higher weight. I don't think anyone is clamoring for that fight on its merits. If you look through the rest of 154 for potential opponents for Manny, you mainly find guys trying to avoid him and Mayweather at 147 or guys trying to avoid Martinez and Williams at 160. There isn't a name in the group that inspires much excitement.
That leaves us with a couple of wild cards and I strongly suspect that this is where Manny ends up if Mayweather chickens out. Pacquiao-Marquez 3 is a promotable fight and one both fighters would probably agree to. Marquez has nothing to lose stepping in for a third time with Pacman and it's likely the biggest non-Mayweather payday that manny is going to get. They could meet at 142 or so and both walk away with a nice pile of green. The other wildcard option is a little more wild - Margarito. Assuming he can get licensed, he's a name, he needs a payday badly and generating interest in Pacquiao-Margarito isn't that big of a stretch. They can play the bad boy angle, the redemption angle - whatever - it will sell PPVs. Dont' be shocked if Margarito is the choice if Mayweather won't fight.
In the end, there aren't many attractive options. The best fight fans can do is pray that Mayweather is willing to risk his precious perfect record and give us the fight we all need to see.