Mayweather and Pacquiao Winding Down: Who Follows When Boxing's Biggest Stars Are Gone?

Nonito Donaire has rare potential star power for a smaller fighter. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Kory Kitchen is back at Bad Left Hook to look at four possible superstar fighters who could lead the sport when Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao are gone.

I don't have a whole lot to add to what other people have written on this past weekend's bout between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. Rather, I am going to take this another route. I think it is pretty obvious that Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather are not going to be around much longer. Well, at least as top fighters.

Mayweather will be 35 soon, and Pacquiao appears to look a little more stale with every fight. Before long, someone within the boxing world is going to have to step up and replace them as the major attraction. It always happens. In fact, it may very well be the individual that finally defeats one of the mega stars (or could somehow topple them both). For this article I have limited the list down to just four immediate candidates. I'm sure we could all name more, but for brevity I have attempted to grind it down to the four fighters that I feel have the best immediate chance of taking the stars' places among the top of the boxing hierarchy.

Saul Alvarez

Alvarez has been one of boxing's top prospects for the past few years. Unlike most of the sport's top prospects, you haven't had to search through YouTube, illegal streams, or spend your Friday night watching ShoBox to see him perform his craft lately. Alvarez has been a consistent stay on HBO events recently, and will also headline HBO's Boxing After Dark series on November 26 against Puerto Rican Kermit Cintron.

In fact, he isn't really much of a prospect at all anymore (though he did just fight a gatekeeper type in Alfonso Gomez). He won the WBC junior middleweight belt in March of this year by outboxing Matthew Hatton over 12 grossly one-sided rounds, and has defended the title twice already this year. Alvarez has excellent hand speed and solid punching power. He is not much of a one-shot type of guy (outside of his KO of Carlos Baldomir), but he makes up for it with slick skill and God-given talent. I don't feel that Alvarez will ever be Mayweather's or Pacquiao's peer in terms of fighting ability. However, he has enormous popularity (especially given his youth), and if he could defeat Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and/or James Kirkland in front of millions on HBO he could quickly become a mega-star. Defeating Mayweather or Pacquiao, if they wanted to venture to 154, would also do the trick.

Amir Khan

Khan is, without a doubt in my mind, one of the most talented fighters in the world. I know that may surprise some, but the guy has great hand speed coupled with good power amplified by excellent technical skill. It is he, not Timothy "beating Khan will do nothing for my career" Bradley that is the world's best 140-pound fighter. If gets past Lamont Peterson in December (which I feel is a tougher fight that advertised) he has said he will fight once more at junior welter if Bradley wants to fight.

Khan, a silver medalist in the 2004 Olympics, is already a big star in the UK, and has the talent and charisma to become a major player in the US provided he keeps impressing. He is promoted by Golden Boy, and has been frequently mentioned as a possible Mayweather opponent for 2012. A win against "Money May" would allow Khan to evolve into the superstar that his supporters envisioned when he turned professional.

Nonito Donaire

Maybe Donaire didn't look his normal scintillating self in his last bout against Omar Narvaez, but don't let that fool you. The Filipino champ is a bona-fide puncher with serious skills. It's not his fault if a guy is just looking to grab a quick paycheck before retirement. Now that it looks like he will move up to 122 and 126 pounds, Donaire has some wonderful match-ups that can await him. I do wish he could have fought the winner of the Moreno-Agbeko rematch, but I never believed he would have fought either anyways.

Donaire brings a rare speed/power combination with him to the ring that few fighters possess. In fact, Top Rank is essentially trying to offer a six-figure bonus to someone to try and beat him. Really. Donaire's biggest hurdle in trying to fill his countryman's (Pacquiao) shoes is that he is a little smaller. Floyd, Manny, and Oscar (not to mention others before them) have proven that you don't need to be a heavyweight in order to be a heavyweight at the box-office.

That said, there isn't much history to support featherweights being major stars in the US. Recently, there have been some popular fighters for sure: Naseem Hamed, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and Juan Manuel Marquez to name a few. Pacquiao wasn't a major star until he fought above lightweight. Donaire has the style, but does he have the proper platform? Hopefully, he gets fights with men like Juan Manuel Lopez, Yuriorkis Gamboa, and Orlando Salido that will be exciting fights to help propel him to stardom.

James Kirkland

Let me say that I'm not quite as high on Kirkland as some people are following his knockout of Alfredo Angulo. It was a great comeback in a fight that I did not think he would win, but let's not get too carried away. Angulo aint exactly Walker Smith. Nevertheless, Kirkland's star grew considerably from that one night. Many people across the country commented on the fight, and even SportsCenter showed highlights (rare for a non-major fight).

Kirkland has the kind of kill-or-be-killed type of style that endears itself so easily to mainstream sports fans. People loved to watch Mike Tyson because of his violent ring presence. The biggest box-office draw in the whole history of boxing is not Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Manny Pacquiao, or Floyd Mayweather. It's the "Manassa Mauler" Jack Dempsey. People will pay money to see a man tear into another man.

ould anybody skip out on watching Kirkland's next fight? Of course not. The main issue with him is going to be protecting him to a certain degree. I know some people may laugh at the notion of protecting a man that just knocked out a guy that wears a dog-collar to the ring, but Kirkland has his flaws. He is not very technically sound, though he has improved over the past couple of years. His chin still has to have question marks as he has been dropped several times now in his career, and there had been rumors that he has been hurt in sparring. If Kirkland can stay focused for every fight, and be matched properly, he could become a major star in boxing. If he eventually does get that "mandatory" shot against Saul Alvarez then you can bet that the winner will be on a higher plateau than most other boxers. Like Alvarez, a win against either Mayweather or Pacquiao would make him a mega-star of the highest order.

Other possible candidates in random order: Brandon Rios, Andre Ward, Adrien Broner, the Victor Ortiz-Andre Berto II winner, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (yes, I did)

Some quick points from this past weekend:

  • For what it's worth (and it isn't worth anything), I scored the fight for Pacquiao 115-113. I know I'm biased, and must work for Top Rank. I could see it going closely for either guy. No, I am not going to lock myself in a room to re-watch the fight one million times with the sound off so I can have a more "accurate" scorecard. It is what it is.
  • This is actually the first of their fights that I scored for Pacquiao. I had their first bout 113-113, and the second one I scored for Marquez 115-112. Yet, despite this, I feel that this was clearly the worst that Pacquiao had performed against his toughest rival. I'm not sure what that means.
  • If we don't get Mayweather-Pacquiao, then I wouldn't mind a fourth fight. It sure beats seeing Manny against Tim "beating Khan would do nothing for my career" Bradley.
  • Well, kids, I guess you won't be getting the Christmas present you asked for. Pacquiao-Casamayor won't happen. I hope your life is still worth getting out of bed for.
  • If anybody does re-watch the fight, then please look at what Michael Buffer read off of when he is in the ring. I think it was his high school senior pictures.
  • I dare somebody to take a drink every time Jim Lampley exclaims, "BIG RIGHT HAND!!!" Then, I dare you to take another drink if no punch even landed.
  • If Oscar de la Hoya's Twitter account did not have that big blue checkmark I would swear that it was a parody account.
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