Though there is some mild insistence that Manny Pacquiao is not out of the running for a May 5 fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr, and indeed neither Manny nor Juan Manuel Marquez have committed to a fourth fight with one another, let's assume for now that, as usual, Mayweather vs Pacquiao is merely a fantasy.
If it's not Manny, then who can Floyd fight?
Mayweather will want a few things out of an opponent:
- Someone who is, in some way, legitimate. This can mean an actual challenge, one of the sport's many "champions" (titleholders), someone undefeated, or a big enough name.
- He probably doesn't want to fight over 147 pounds, but there's no way he will fight over 154.
- The opponent probably can't take too much of the split. If he can get 80-20 (or better), it's probably good by Floyd.
- They must be willing to fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Of course, everyone is.
So let's take a look at five opponents who could fit the bill in May.
1. Sergio Martinez
Pros: Martinez (47-2-2, 26 KO) is the legitimate, lineal middleweight champion, and says he's willing to drop down all the way to 150 pounds for a fight with Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather. Bob Arum has pretty much written off the idea from the Pacquiao side, but Team Mayweather has never really addressed it. It would be a genuine legacy win if Floyd could knock this guy off, especially if he agreed to a 154-pound fight and didn't boil Martinez down to a possibly extremely weak 150, but Floyd shouldn't be expected to not take an advantage, especially one the other side has offered.
Cons: Mayweather may balk at the size difference. Martinez is a 5'11" middleweight with speed, power, a southpaw stance, slickness, and a promoter who isn't Golden Boy.
2. Amir Khan
Pros: Khan (26-1, 18 KO) has indicated great interest in the fight, and Mayweather has, too. Khan, 24, says he doesn't want to take the Mayweather bout for another nine months, but money could change his mind. Trained by Freddie Roach, the 24/7 storylines could be really compelling, and if Khan looks great against Lamont Peterson on December 10, the fight could interest a lot of folks as much as any possible fight could. There would also be big UK money in it, just from pay-per-view (though Sky has said they're out of the PPV business, surely Mayweather vs Khan would qualify).
Cons: If Khan holds firm on not rushing into a Mayweather fight, he won't be ready by May 5. I'm sure with a money offer he'd consult his trainer and the rest of his team to assess if he's ready, and it's up in the air what Roach might tell him to do with that. Freddie's confident, but he knows how good Mayweather is, and the sort of things he can do to a young fighter who isn't mentally prepared. And as mentioned earlier, Khan sounds like he'd prefer to fight Berto, Ortiz or Senchenko at 147 before Floyd.
3. Victor Ortiz
Pros: He's still one of the better fighters at 147, some people (a minority, but some) still feel he was giving Mayweather problems on September 17. He's promoted by Golden Boy. He's enough a nut to think it's a good idea. Oscar De La Hoya is still trying to push him as a next big star.
Cons: The fight isn't that interesting, and rematch chatter went away pretty quickly. Ortiz looks more likely to rematch Andre Berto on January 28, and that fight would likely knock him out of the running. He wouldn't likely come out of it unscathed, and Floyd fights need time to promote.
4. Robert Guerrero
Pros: Guerrero is very ambitious and incredibly hungry for a big fight. He already had designs on going up to 147 before his August 27 fight at 140 with Marcos Maidana was canceled due to his shoulder injury. Guerrero is promoted by Golden Boy, may very well match up nicely with Floyd from a stylistic standpoint, and he says he's interested in having his ticket punched by Floyd.
Cons: He has little name value and has never fought at welterweight, never even above a 138-pound catchweight, and that was with washed-up buddy Joel Casamayor. It's one thing to be Victor Ortiz coming off of a big, title-nabbing, highly-hyped win over Andre Berto. Guerrero might be able to get a tune-up in, but not something that would make him buzzworthy.
5. Saul "Canelo" Alvarez
Pros: Alvarez is incredibly popular in Mexico, has picked up a lot of hype in the United States, and is worth money. He said at age 19 that he was hoping to fight Mayweather soon. People wrote it off as not possible at the time, but that was two years ago, and clearly young "Canelo" wants to move fast.
Cons: He's young, and he's been handled very carefully. Plus, there appears to be serious interest between Top Rank and Golden Boy in matching Alvarez with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, although with the sniping lately, that whole working relationship might be over before it has really started. Mayweather would have to fight him at 154, maybe 152 as a catchweight. Would he?
Wild Cards: Erik Morales and Oscar De La Hoya
Make no mistake: Golden Boy, but not Mayweather, did ask Erik Morales if he's interested in fighting Mayweather on May 5. Or at least that's what Erik Morales himself says, and it wasn't Eric Gomez, it was Richard Schaefer. I did worry back in September, after both won in Vegas, that Morales might call out Mayweather, but he hasn't done that. Actually, Morales has expressed more interest in moving down in weight to 135 than going up to chase a fifth belt at 147.
As for Oscar, I don't think it's likely or anything, and he's only dropped weird little hints here and there that he's considered coming back to the ring, then has later made clear he doesn't want to. But I think something's eating at him, and it hasn't been a good year in the news for the "Golden Boy." It would be terribly ill-advised, but so have a lot of boxing comebacks. I'd give this a 1.3% chance of happening -- but that's greater than zero.