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Manny Pacquiao planning July return to action, Spence and Garcia top options

The Filipino legend may be moving away from the idea of fighting Conor McGregor

Manny Pacquiao v Keith Thurman Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

WBA welterweight titleholder Manny Pacquiao is looking to get back in the ring in July, which would be a year since his last fight, a win over Keith Thurman, and it appears as though the Filipino icon may have moved on from the idea of fighting UFC’s Conor McGregor next.

Pacquiao told Filipino TV that “Mikey Garcia, Errol Spence, or (Terence) Crawford” would be his possible opponents, seemingly at least pressing pause on the McGregor idea. But we know Pacquiao and his team are deadly serious about that mega novelty fight, what with Manny recently signing with Paradigm, who also manage McGregor, and several attempts to play the idea up in the press. There’s no update on that, but it could be as simple as UFC not looking to again sacrifice one of its biggest stars and drawing cards in a boxing endeavor, at least not right now.

Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KO) is still a top star and draw in this sport, of course, and any of the mentioned possibilities would quality as a big fight. Other than that, they’re much different matchups.

Spence (26-0, 21 KO) and Crawford (36-0, 27 KO) would be firm favorites against the 41-year-old Pacquiao at this point. Both Spence, 30, and Crawford, 32, are considered pound-for-pound players, and are in their primes — at least if Spence has no lingering issues from his one-car accident last fall.

As for the likelihood of the fights, that crash has put Spence on schedule to return late in the spring — some are expecting June — and it’s unlikely he’s hopping right back in at the Pacquiao level. And Crawford is a Top Rank guy, of course, which doesn’t make Crawford-Pacquiao impossible, but Bob Arum had a chance to make that fight when he had both under contract, and he openly didn’t want to do it. He did not want to “feed” Pacquiao to Crawford.

That leaves the most likely option, which is Mikey Garcia, and we know Garcia (40-1, 30 KO) wants the fight. Mikey’s first fight at welterweight in 2019 was a debacle, but his second outing this past weekend went a lot better, a solid win over Jessie Vargas. Mikey’s not a full-fledged 147 and never will be, but as we discussed Sunday, neither is Pacquiao, even still. And Garcia is fully confident he can beat Pacquiao.

If I were betting, I’d bet on Pacquiao-Garcia, possibly from somewhere like Saudi Arabia where they’ll all rake in an absolute boatload of cash. If they do it in Vegas, though, it’ll still make good money, and it can sell on pay-per-view if that’s the route.

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