Manny Pacquiao: Next fight options dissected

Lee Cleveland Updated
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Did 39 year old fight legend Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KO) turn back the clock against Lucas Matthysse last week?

And what are his options going forward?

He looked wonderful stopping KO artist Lucas Matthysse and I, unlike a few others, don't buy into the excuse the Argentine was a shot fighter.

Matthysse entered that fight 5-1, 4 KO in his previous six bouts. Not exactly chopped liver.

And while many fans were critical of Lucas Matthysse's 8th Round knockout over Tewa Kiram in January, the Argentine was impressive in several ways. Yes, he looked sluggish and the fight wasn't a barnburner, but Lucas overcame formidable obstacles to secure the knockout.

Let's not forget, Kiram entered the bout 38-0, 28 KO and isn't the type of opponent who is easy to look good against. Yet, instead of coasting to a points win, the 35 year old Matthysse found a way to knockout a confident, unbeaten, naturally larger foe who had youth on his side.

Matthysse solved the puzzle. And in doing so, he not only showed his punching power was still intact, he proved he still has the heart, fire and tenacity to dig deep down inside.

Point: PacMan deserves credit for defeating one of the most dangerous fighters in boxing.

Counterpoint: It was a favorable style match-up for Pacquiao given Matthysse’s size and because he’s not a slick, hit-and-move boxer.

Should Team Pacquiao target one of the powerbrokers from 135-147? I'm referring to Errol Spence, Terence Crawford, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Vasyl Lomachenko or Mikey Garcia?

Answer: Not yet.

Should Pacquiao soundly defeat another quality opponent next, he will have shown he's ready for one of the top guys. I'd like to see Manny with impressive, back-to-back wins over quality foes before he steps up to face a top-flight, pound-for-pound level opponent.

Michael Rosenthal published a well-crafted piece on, Manny Pacquiao Should Think Carefully About Next Opponent, evaluating possible next-fight options for PacMan. I've used a similar approach but don't agree with everything the insightful Rosenthal wrote.

Terence Crawford, Errol Spence and Keith Thurman: Like Rosenthal, I believe PacMan would have a respectable shot of dethroning Keith Thurman who is sometimes too pensive and methodical in the ring. Moreover, he's not extraordinarily fast nor has he been very active or impressive of late. Unlike Rosenthal, I don't think Pacquiao would or should be a sizable underdog should he face Thurman.

Crawford or Spence? Definitely no. Not now. They are too skilled, fast and powerful for Team Pacquiao to take a chance on at this moment. Let's not forget, PacMan has had just one good performance since his November 2016 win over Vargas.

Danny Garcia: A better option than Crawford or Spence but Garcia, 29, is still too young and has too many tools for the immediate risk. 

Shawn Porter: Rosenthal cites Porter's aggression as an inevitable problem for Pac. "Porter’s swarming style would give Pacquiao problems, just as Jeff Horn’s aggression did," he stated. But Porter isn't an incredibly huge, rangy welterweight like Horn and that would work to Pac’s advantage. Nevertheless, Porter would be too much risk for the reward for Team Pacquiao.

Amir Khan: Not a bad choice. But Khan has tremendous speed and throws punches in bunches. He's also a lot rangier than Matthysse and uses his feet more, making him a harder target. Khan boasts a big name and, arguably, a suspect chin so he might be worth the risk. Moreover, like Pacquiao, he hasn't been very active the last two years.

Former stablemates, Pacquiao and Khan have sparred many rounds and know a lot about each other.

And obviously, that could work to Manny's advantage or disadvantage. If - and only if - Pacquiao is supremely confident he can KO Khan, this might be a fight worth taking. Without a stoppage or 2 or 3 knockdowns, Manny would run the risk of losing on points.

Adrien Broner:
Pacquiao vs Broner... I'll take it. AB is young and fast, and would pose a formidable threat to Pacquiao. However, at welterweight he's not nearly as dominant as he was in lower divisions and has shown vulnerabilities, like an unwillingness to let his hands go and an inconsistent activity rate.

Also, Broner is popular and can sell a fight.

Good guy vs bad guy: AB is flashy, divisive and arrogant while Manny is soft spoken and humble. Like pro wrestling, a boxing match is always more interesting to the masses when the combatants are well-known and colorful. And if the public perceives a fight as 'good guy vs bad guy,' even better.

Pacquiao vs Broner would have the potential to be huge, from a marketing and revenue standpoint.

It would be comparable to Pacquiao vs Terence Crawford or Errol Spence and bigger than Manny vs Kell Brook, Keith Thurman or Danny Garcia even though all of them would be favored against Adrien.

Jessie Vargas: Ranked high by the WBA, Vargas may eventually be Manny's mandatory should he keep the title. Vargas is a super fighter who Manny decisioned by a wide margin in November 2016. Jessie has also improved and would be a bigger threat in a rematch, but Pacquiao vs Vargas 2 would generate little interest.

Andre Berto / Lamont Peterson - Excellent options. Berto is an exciting fighter and, stylistically, may be just what the doctor order for Team Pacquiao. And should he defeat Devon Alexander, Andre will have built some momentum to generate added buzz. Berto would be the safest high-profile option if Team Pacquiao is hellbent on facing Crawford next year. Pacquiao vs Berto wouldn't generate a lot more interest than Pac vs Matthysee but it would be a good litmus test for Manny. 

And Peterson, who was stopped by Spence in his most recent fight, is quality and would also be a good 'barometer' opponent for Manny if Team Pacquiao is looking for a megafight next year.

And if Pacquiao looked as good against Peterson or Berto as he did Matthysse, it would legitimize and enhance an ensuing superfight showdown with Crawford or another powerbroker.

Jeff Horn (rematch): The first fight offered controversy, drama, intrigue and bad blood... Why not a rematch? This would be nice 'revenge' fight for Manny who lost the first fight compliments of poor judging and a presumed lack of focus. Horn's stock has dropped since he was dominated by Crawford last month but the latter is still a star of sorts in Australia.

Downside: Although a Horn rematch would create “some” buzz, Jeff is an abnormally big welterweight who is tough and resourceful; and his awkward, mauling style could make for another ugly fight. Manny probably wins in a sluggish affair and runs the risk of looking subpar, again, in the process.

Mikey Garcia: Rosenthal thinks Garcia would be a fairly suitable style match-up for Manny.

"Garcia has excellent technique and unusual power but he’s not unusually quick and he’d be moving up in weight to face Pacquiao," he wrote. "I’d pick Garcia to win but Pacquiao could make things interesting."

Excellent points, but I don't like this fight for Manny right now. Again, Pacquiao has had just one impressive performance since his November 2016 win over Vargas. Garcia is young, experienced and very polished, and would be too much risk for the reward as a next-fight option, even at welterweight.

Vasyl Lomachenko: A top 3 pound-for-pound fighter, 135 pound lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko would also be a threat to Manny at welterweight. But Egis Klimas, Lomachenko's manager, hinted Pacquiao would have to drop two divisions to 135 pounds if he wanted to face his man.

"I don't think Pacquiao right now can go down to 135," said Klimas in February 2017 on 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' with Mario Lopez.

"And I'm not joking and I'm not trying to be funny but I'm very serious, if we can get a couple of fights, two fights at 135 and Pacquiao can come down to 135, send me a contract - we'll sign it."

That's not how boxing works. The A-side makes the demands. If a non-mandatory wants to face Manny, they must accommodate Team Pacquiao's requests not vice versa.

Lomachenko is a fighting freak and may be the world's best. However, his team would be reluctant to face Manny at 147. And at 39, it would be ill-advised for Pac to meet the Ukrainian at a 140-pound catchweight should it be proposed. Vasyl is THAT good and I don't like the idea of Manny dropping weight at this stage of his career. 

If I'm Team Pacquiao, I'd "consider" making Pacquiao vs Lomachenko next but only at 147. And that probably isn't realistic.

My proposed next-fight opponents
Weighing style match-ups, revenue and risk vs reward, here are my suggestions, in order, for Manny Pacquiao's next fight:

1. Andre Berto (should he beat Alexander)
2. Adrien Broner
3. Jeff Horn (rematch)
4. Lamont Peterson
5. Amir Khan
6. Vasyl Lomachenko (only at 147)
7. Keith Thurman  


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