THE hunt for Manny Pacquiao’s next ring opponent is turning out to be as difficult as the search for the proverbial needle in the haystack.
A process that is supposed to be very simple is turning into a very complicated one, with a lot of unresolved issues tied to it. First, there is the matter of determining if Pacquiao really wants to lace on the gloves again this year, what with the former eight-division world champion seemingly more immersed in his burgeoning extra-curricular activities that include religion and politics. Second, if Pacquiao is really serious on fighting again, there is the issue of finding the right foe who will not jeopardize the negotiations for a future megabuck showdown with undefeated American Floyd Mayweather Jr.
With the first issue still unresolved, Top Rank promotions head honcho Bob Arum has decided to push through with the elimination process vis-à-vis the search for Pacquiao's next ring adversary.
American Timothy Bradley Jr., Puerto Rican Miguel Angel Cotto and Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez were the names raffled off when it was first announced that Pacquiao was planning to fight again this year. The list has since been trimmed down to just two fighters, Bradley and Marquez, after Cotto announced that he will be fighting unbeaten (25-0, 17 knockouts) American Austin Trout on December 1 in New York for the World Boxing Association super welterweight championship. Reports also have it that Cotto, who was stopped by Pacquiao in 12 rounds in November 2009, eliminated himself from the list by asking for an astronomical purse.
Bradley, who beat Pacquiao in June for the World Boxing Organization welterweight strap, appears to be the ideal choice on paper. The undefeated (29-0, 12 knockouts) Californian barely survived 12 rounds with Pacquiao and is not likely to be that lucky in a return bout. Bradley, however, lacks the marketability to pull in eye-popping pay-per-view numbers. Bradley would have been an easy choice if Arum was planning to pay Pacquiao with food stubs. The first fight between Pacquiao and Bradley generated only 900,000 pay-per-view subscriptions. The live gate at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas generated only an income of US$8,963,180, with 2,070 unsold tickets. Unless Pacquiao agrees to a major pay cut, Bradley will have a hard time convincing Arum that he is the right foe for the Filipino.
Marquez, who narrowly lost to Pacquiao in their third meeting in November 2011, has suddenly emerged as a frontrunner. The third meeting between Pacquiao and Marquez drew an impressive 1.4 million pay-per-view buys. The live gate at the MGM Grand generated an income of US$11,648,300 with 15,498 tickets sold.
Then again, the unresolved first issue concerning Pacquiao is arguably keeping Arum from picking Marquez. Pacquiao can take his sweet time deciding if he wants to fight again if he is only planning on swapping mitts with a fighter cut along the mould of Bradley. Marquez, however, posts a more serious threat and Pacquiao half-heartedly agreeing to the fight means additional worries for Arum. A loss by Pacquiao to Marquez will undeniably ruin the projected dream showdown with Mayweather.
Time is not on Arum’s side. Top Rank’s contract with Pacquiao will expire next year and with the clock ticking, Arum has to make the Mayweather fight by the first quarter of 2013. The last thing Arum wants is to see the richest fight in boxing history slipping through his fingers and another promotional group (Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions or 50 Cent’s newly-established The Money Team group) profiting from it.
Come to think of it, perhaps this is the reason why Pacquiao is taking his sweet time.