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Manny Pacquiao's retirement fight: Crawford and other potential opponents

Manny Pacquiao reportedly has one more fight left, and it will come next spring. Who will he face?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With last night's news that Manny Pacquiao will be back on April 9, and that it will be the final fight of his Hall of Fame-bound career, we've got a lot to discuss about potential opponents. Saying that, we now will discuss potential opponents! I am Perd Hapley. The story of Manny Pacquiao's next opponent is, it will be someone.

Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KO) will be 37 when he fights in April, following an 11 month layoff that also included surgery on his right shoulder. It's worth wondering what kind of physical shape he'll be in -- he'll look great, surely, but will he really feel great? But it's even more debatable what kind of mental state he'll have. Fighters who have a foot out the door and are openly ready for retirement run a high risk of not being at their best, or even the best they could potentially be at that stage. Floyd Mayweather is an exception, but Floyd Mayweather is pretty much always an exception.

Quickly, here's a list of names you can probably forget about, as they are all advised by Al Haymon: Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Robert Guerrero, Shawn Porter, Adrien Broner, Errol Spence Jr, Lamont Peterson, Andre Berto. I'm not saying those are all interesting fights or anything, just that those are some names you can scratch off. Also Devon Alexander, but right now it appears you can scratch off Devon Alexander in general.

Quickly, here's a second list of names you can forget about: Floyd Mayweather (he's officially retired, for whatever that's worth, and Mayweather isn't going to fight some dumb April date just to do this again); Gennady Golovkin (seriously, don't even bring it up like it's a useful idea); Canelo Alvarez (this has been floated in media before, but Bob Arum recently shot it down due to size); Lucas Matthysse (probably would have been a frontrunner if he'd beaten Postol, but he decidedly did not).

Quickly, here's a third list of names you can forget about because Freddie Roach trains these fighters: Miguel Cotto, Viktor Postol.

Terence Crawford

Terence Crawford v Thomas Dulorme Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Crawford (27-0, 21 KO) appears to be the leading candidate for now, but we're basing that off of a few hours of reality, too. When Dan Rafael ran the Pacquiao story just before Crawford beat Dierry Jean last night on HBO, it suddenly became the story on the network. Bob Arum talked about it like it was the frontrunner after the fight. But who knows what Manny thinks, or what he's looking to do with his last fight?

Pros: Crawford could use a win over Pacquiao to springboard into the next step of stardom, and it's by far the biggest fight out there for the Omaha native. It's also a very interesting fight for Pacquiao to take in a retirement bout, because at this point, honestly, Crawford might be seen as the favorite. As a wise man once said, "THIS AIN'T BERTO!"

Cons: Maybe Pacquiao doesn't want a really tough fight with an unbeaten young gun to go out. Pacquiao has put his blood and sweat into boxing for a long time. Maybe like rival Mayweather, he'd prefer to just say farewell with what amounts to a victory lap. Also, look, Pacquiao is past his prime without question, but is still a very good fighter, and Crawford hasn't faced anyone like even the Pacquiao we saw against Mayweather or Chris Algieri. There's a risk-reward factor here for Crawford and Top Rank. If Pacquiao beats their rising star on his way out, what's the upside for them?

Juan Manuel Marquez

Manny Pacquiao v Juan Manuel Marquez Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

One more time? It'd be an easy sell with their legendary history, and could be a dual retirement fight. Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KO) hasn't fought since March 2014, when he outpointed Mike Alvarado. He had some knee troubles early this year and has stayed on the shelf, waiting for the right fight.

Pros: Biggest money available for Marquez, possibly biggest money available for Pacquiao. These two can't help but have exciting fights with one another. They are just tailor made to fight each other in 50-50 bouts. This would be all about bragging rights and the legacy of both fighters.

Cons: No matter how big the money is, Marquez might not think it's enough. He is genuinely pleased, it would seem, to leave the rivalry where it is, the last visual in everyone's minds being Pacquiao face down on the canvas, knocked out cold courtesy a brutal Marquez right hand. Also runs really high risk of being a sad final chapter in what has been an amazing rivalry from 2004-12. Pacquiao would be 37 and coming off of shoulder surgery, with a foot out the door. Marquez would be 42 and inactive for two years. There's some Vazquez-Marquez IV potential here, even without either of them operating with one good eye. Throwing Marquez into this discussion is possibly akin to speculating on Joe Biden running for President. Even after he's said he's not going to do it, there's still some talk about it.

Timothy Bradley

Manny Pacquiao v Timothy Bradley

These two have met twice, once in 2012, resulting in an incredibly controversial Bradley decision win, and again in 2014, resulting in a clear Pacquiao victory, or maybe another clear Pacquiao victory, this time with the right decision from the judges. If Bradley (32-1-1, 12 KO) impressively defeats Brandon Rios on November 7, this could be in play.

Pros: There's some history here. Not Pacquiao-Marquez history, but some history. And Bradley is still a top welterweight, the best on the Top Rank roster outside of Pacquiao. BONUS: Teddy Atlas and Freddie Roach head-to-head at press conferences and slamming each other in interviews could be truly outstanding.

Cons: Even if Bradley looks great against Rios, interest in Pacquiao-Bradley III would probably be marginal. While their rematch certainly sold a lot better than Manny's fights with Rios or Algieri, it was still a mild disappointment on PPV, and it's not like many fans think there's unfinished business between the two. They'd have to talk fans into ordering, and that's not easy to do.

Amir Khan

Manny Pacquiao & Amir Khan Hold Discussions About Possible Fight Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images

Khan (31-3, 19 KO) and Pacquiao recently had discussions about a potential 2016 fight. The most recent update on that was Khan pretending he was going to pull out of negotiations because Pacquiao was dragging his feet.

Pros: A lot of story here, with Khan a former Wild Card teammate of Pacquiao's and someone who has some thoughts on Freddie Roach, who has some thoughts on Khan, too, clearly. Both have been mostly civil since their split, but who knows what they might unleash to sell a fight? Though Khan is with Al Haymon, Amir told FightHype that Haymon likes the fight and would be willing to work with Top Rank to make it happen. Khan tried and failed to land a fight with Floyd Mayweather, and if he swings and misses on Pacquiao, he'd be left with his biggest option as Kell Brook, and that's not something he seems to really want to do.

Cons: Khan is managed by Al Haymon, and whatever the word is now or last month or next month, until the fight is signed, that remains a huge potential issue. It's not about the fighters -- I've no doubt that Pacquiao and Khan would be willing to face each other. It's not even about personal animosity or failing lawsuits. It's just about getting Arum and Haymon to come to terms that both can accept. If one or both sides aren't willing to do one seemingly minor thing, the fight could be a total no-go. Both sides have some actual power, and it's hard to get two sides with actual power to work together in boxing. That's why Golden Boy, who now have basically no power, work with Top Rank these days, after their "Cold War" with Top Rank was no longer viable a viable way to operate. Haymon and Top Rank both have other actual options.

Paulie Malignaggi

PBC on ESPN: Danny Garcia v Paulie Malignaggi Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Malignaggi (34-7, 7 KO) has made a lot of headlines the last few years slamming Pacquiao. Conveniently, these headlines started after Malignaggi signed with business--as-usual maven Haymon, after years of Paulie slamming the industry in a tone usually reserved for fans or disgruntled bloggers.

Pros: There's probably a pretty sizable chunk of the audience that would like to see Manny punch Malignaggi in the mouth.

Cons: There's no credibility with this fight. Take Mayweather-Berto and remove the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world AND an opponent with a puncher's chance, and you've got an idea of what Pacquiao-Malignaggi is on paper. Also, Team Pacquiao probably aren't looking for a fight that can only sell even a little bit if the other guy screams "STEROIDS! STEROIDS! STEROIDS!" in every interview. I mean, this isn't going to happen and isn't even a borderline legitimate option, I just wanted to talk about the idea for a minute here.

Ruslan Provodnikov

Ruslan Provodnikov v Lucas Matthysse Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

Provodnikov (24-4, 17 KO) no longer employs the services of Freddie Roach, leaving him for Joel Diaz, and is both an all action fighter and a guy who is very beatable for higher-end fighters.

Pros: Could be some hot juicy gossip to dish in interviews, I guess? Also, what I just said: he makes fun fights and he's beatable. On paper, Pacquiao would probably carve him up.

Cons: Provodnikov is headed to Showtime, and that hasn't changed publicly even though a November 7 date for him fell through. (He'll fight in Monaco on that date instead, against a garbage opponent.) Maybe a deal could be made, but for now it appears he's going to be a Showtime fighter, and obviously Pacquiao is HBO exclusive.

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All in all, it would appear that Crawford and Khan are the serious candidates, and the others are here because I wanted to jibber jabber. So if those are the two frontrunners, what's your choice as a fight fan?

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