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Manny Pacquiao next fight: Who will be the opponent? Four favorites and a big wild card darkhorse

There are some big names Manny could choose from as he prepares to return, and one wild card that might seem crazy, but just might be the guy.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images, Tim Warner/Getty Images, Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC, and Mikey Williams/Top Rank

With Manny Pacquiao back in training and promising “big news coming soon,” the global sporting icon and bona fide boxing legend is back in the spotlight.

Now 42, Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KO) is still a top-tier star in the sport, and still looked like a hell of a good fighter when we last saw him. That was a while ago, sure, but there’s nobody near his weight who won’t want to fight Manny Pacquiao.

That said, we’ve got four top options, some other lower-chance possibilities, and one big darkhorse pick for Manny’s next opponent.

Terence Crawford

A fight with WBO welterweight titleholder Crawford (37-0, 28 KO) was close to getting made last year, at least according to Bob Arum, who currently promotes the 33-year-old Crawford and promoted Pacquiao through the entire prime of his career.

Pacquiao and Top Rank didn’t part on nasty terms or anything, and though Arum has publicly waffled on the idea of doing Pacquiao-Crawford, all of his most recent statements on the fight have shown he’s certainly willing to make it happen, which most likely he always was.

This is a doable fight, but the money will have to be big. That can be achieved if there’s a home for it overseas somewhere, in the Middle East or perhaps Macau, where Pacquiao fought Brandon Rios in 2013 and Chris Algieri in 2014, back when Arum was keen to make Macau a massive money player in the sport. That didn’t work out as he’d hoped then, but if the money is there right now, anywhere can be in play.

Ryan Garcia

Obviously, this idea has had a lot of talk. 22-year-old lightweight rising star Garcia (21-0, 18 KO) teased it in late January on the “Jalen & Jacoby” show, and quickly it picked up steam, with talks revealed to be legitimate just a few days later.

But then it was floated that the idea could have been for an exhibition fight, which to me seems incredibly boring with two active, fully licensed fighters, but there might be money in it still. And there would be money here.

Recently, Golden Boy President Eric Gomez threw some cold water on the talks, saying the fight “isn’t going to happen,” and that “there’s nothing to talk about there.” There have still been reports that Garcia’s team — manager, lawyer, etc. — are talking about the fight, but Golden Boy don’t seem interested, and trainer Eddy Reynoso has publicly stated he’d prefer Ryan fight Gervonta Davis, who plans to return in June, for whatever that’s worth.

Conor McGregor

With McGregor having been violently knocked out by Dustin Poirier at UFC 257 in January, the idea might seem dead. Don’t write it off just yet.

I know you might be groaning, but Pacquiao-McGregor is still worth more money than most fights Manny can do, maybe more than all of them, and it also might be now or never. Pacquiao is 42 years old and is not going to be fighting much longer, it seems. McGregor is 33 in July and may be fading as a top-shelf fighter even in his own sport. The chance that they’re not going to be able to make this any hotter than it is now — even legitimately reduced from what it would have been signed in December — is very high, much more likely than not.

If they’re going to do it, the time might be now. And we know very well that Pacquiao has seriously wanted to do it. We don’t know McGregor’s current interest in the idea; he’s been hot on it before, but he has potential business with Poirier still in UFC, and he also “retires” every couple months.

Errol Spence Jr

One would figure that if Pacquiao wanted to fight Spence (27-0, 21 KO), he wouldn’t have recently been moved to “champion in recess” by the WBA, which appears to be opening the door for Spence to fight the elevated Yordenis Ugas in a three-belt unification.

But Spence, 31, deserves mention at the very least, even if it’s to say he honestly seems the least likely of the five specific names in the big bold letters we’re listing here. Pacquiao recently said Spence is “too slow,” for what it’s worth. He generally doesn’t seem too interested in this fight, even though it was floated in 2019 after Spence beat Mikey Garcia at AT&T Stadium.

The Darkhorse Pick

Gervonta Davis v Ricardo Nunez Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Gervonta “Tank” Davis. I know it sounds crazy, and it’s definitely a wild card shout, but man, have you been paying attention to boxing over the years? Crazy shit comes out of left field and happens more often than you might think at first blush. Once upon a time, it was Manny Pacquiao jumping two divisions to fight Oscar De La Hoya. That was over 12 years ago now and is such a famous thing that happened that we just sort of think, “Yeah, that happened” now, but back then it was a real “whoa” announcement.

As mentioned, Davis (24-0, 23 KO) looks set to return in June. Davis is a PBC guy, and specifically is with Mayweather Promotions. Wild as it might have seemed some years back, Pacquiao and the Mayweather team get along pretty well anymore.

Tank wants to fight on pay-per-view. He doesn’t seem to have a lot of PPV-quality options. Manny Pacquiao is one for sure.

Yes, Tank fights at 130/135, and Manny has been at 147 for over a decade now. Tank isn’t even a big body for his weight. But Manny was once at those weights, too. This would also be a chance for Davis and Mayweather Promotions to slip in and and “steal” the fight from Ryan Garcia, which might be really tempting given there’s no love lost between the Mayweather crew and Oscar De La Hoya.

It’s a long shot. It’s a wild card. I would not completely count it out.

Other Options

  • Danny Garcia: With Garcia having repeatedly come up short in his biggest fights at 147 — Porter, Thurman, Spence — it doesn’t seem like Danny would be of great interest to Pacquiao at this point.
  • Mikey Garcia: Kind of the same with Danny. Mikey thinks Manny wants low-risk, high-reward, and frankly, he may be right. This fight had some heat at one point, but that’s pretty much gone, and Mikey seems to realize that, too. He’d obviously take it if offered, but he does not seem to expect an offer.
  • Amir Khan: Yo, but what if now Amir Khan finally got one of his two dream fights that eluded him forever?
  • Shawn Porter: Porter wants the Pacquiao fight, feeling he has the best chance of anyone to beat Manny. Styles do make fights, and Porter’s relentless aggression and elite-tier engine really might be a lot for an aged Pacquiao to deal with anymore. I actually think this is a great fight, but I don’t see it happening.
  • Keith Thurman: This would be a rematch of Pacquiao’s last fight, a July 2019 win that took Thurman’s “0.” Thurman also hasn’t fought since. He’s expressed interest in the rematch, but COVID may have wrecked his best chance at getting it. Thurman may be “been there, done that” territory for where Manny is at now.
  • Yordenis Ugas: Doesn’t seem like a big enough fight to interest Pacquiao, probably even less than Garcia or Porter. If Pacquiao wanted to fight Ugas, again, he wouldn’t have been moved to “champion in recess” and Ugas elevated by the WBA.

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