WITH his impressive nine-round demolition of Brandon 'Bam Bam' Rios, World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight (147 lbs.) champion Timothy Bradley, Jr. added his name to the scant list of boxers who are looking to be picked as Manny Pacquiao's farewell foe in April 2016.
Pacquiao, who is seeking a Senate seat in the 2016 national elections, recently made known his intention to fight one more time before archiving the gloves. While many are taking the announcement with the proverbial grain of salt, Top Rank Promotions head honcho Bob Arum has formally launched the search for Pacquiao's last ring partner. Before Bradley barged into the list, Arum has been floating the names of former junior welterweight champ Amir Khan and incumbent WBO junior welterweight king Terence 'Bud' Crawford.
Khan (31-3, 19 knockouts), a former sparring partner of Pacquiao, appears to have the inside track. The 28-year-old Briton offers a marketable name and a fight with Pacquiao in London or in the Middle East (Khan traces his roots to Pakistan) is likely to make tons of money. Khan offers a smooth boxing approach but his jaw has as much foundation as sandcastle. The former champion has been knocked out in one round by Breidis Prescott (2008); starched in four rounds by Danny Garcia (2012); and was nearly reduced to pebbles by Marcos Maidana (2010). Pacquiao is already familiar with Khan's style and this may be one factor to consider in picking the Briton. There are nonetheless observers who believe that the fight could be a stinker owing to Khan's hit-and-run style.
The undefeated Crawford (27-0, 19 knockouts) started meriting serious looks in June 2014, when he bamboozled Cuban mauler Yuriorkis Gamboa in nine rounds for the WBO lightweight (135 lbs.) diadem. With his eyes fixed on a possible fight with Pacquiao, Crawford moved up in weight early this year and collared the WBO junior welterweight plum with an impressive sixth-round stoppage of Thomas Dulorme. The 28-year-old Crawford advertises himself as a boxer-counterpuncher with the ability to switch hit. Unlike Khan who has scored only one knockout win in the last four years, Crawford has chopped down three of his last four foes. Khan may be the bigger name, but it is Crawford who has the power to maim. Steve Farhood, the highly-respected former editor of The Ring magazine, opines that Crawford is a very dangerous opponent and a showdown with Pacquiao could be one of those 'passing-of-the-torch' type of fights.
Bradley (33-1, 13 knockouts) beat Pacquiao via a controversial decision in 2012 but was outclassed in a rematch two years later. Bradley is a boxer who is not afraid to slug it out despite his suspect power and jaw. Bradley didn't attract attention in the Pacquiao sweepstakes until recently, when he manhandled Rios to retain the WBO welterweight title. With a new trainer in his corner (Teddy Atlas, who once trained Mike Tyson and Michael Moorer), Bradley noticeably punched with authority against a Rios, a guy who went the distance with Pacquiao.
Pacquiao is expected to name his choice anytime now, but from where this writer sits, American Floyd Mayweather Jr. will be a factor in the decision-making. To Arum's chagrin, Pacquiao confirmed that there have been 'negotiations' for a possible rematch with Mayweather Jr. The two fighters met in May in a fight that turned out to be the 'fiasco of the century.' Mayweather Jr. waltzed to a clear-cut decision win against Pacquiao who was handicapped by a bum shoulder.
Mayweather Jr. insists he is officially retired and denies any on-going negotiation with Pacquiao. Still, there are quarters who believe that Floyd's retirement is not etched in stone. With a record of 49-0, Mayweather Jr. is one victory shy of establishing an unprecedented 50-0 mark. Mayweather Jr. currently shares the record with Rocky Marciano and one thing about Floyd, he has never been comfortable in sharing anything. Truth be told, Mayweather Jr. is still on top of his game and a rematch with Pacquiao will still make millions of dollars. With the way Mayweather has been spending his money (i.e., buying expensive cars and throwing wads of cash in parties), it may only be a matter of time before he decides to lace on the gloves again to instantly replenish his piggy bank.
If Mayweather Jr. changes his mind, the names Khan, Crawford and Bradley will be instantly tossed out the window. There is no better finale for Pacquiao than a rematch with Mayweather Jr. It is obvious that Pacquiao covets another shot at Mayweather Jr., what with the Pacman's admission that he is negotiating for a sequel notwithstanding the availability of Khan and the rest of the gang. Mayweather may have walked away from the sport, but he still casts a huge shadow in the squared circle.