Who Should Be Manny Pacquiao's Next Opponent?
By Hector Franco | Senior Writer and Editor
Published: July 29, 2018
A few weeks ago former eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao (60-7-2, 39 KOs) made his return to the squared circle when he faced Argentinian power puncher Lucas Matthysse (39-5, 36 KOs) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Pacquiao won a version of the WBA welterweight (147) championship after seven one-sided rounds. The 39-year old Filipino showed that he still has his legs under him along with a speed advantage over most pugilists. It has been close to a decade since Pacquiao’s last win via knockout. In Matthysse, he found the perfect opponent to display to the public that he was in not done with boxing.
It seems at this point that Pacquiao will continue his career rather than choose to hang up the gloves and retire finally. While Pacquiao doesn’t generate the same interest in the sport that he did in his prime after his performance against Matthysse many fans and pundits are wondering whom the Filipino will step in the ring against next.
Due to Pacquiao’s issues with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the United States, it is unclear if he will return to fight in North America at this stage of his career. Even with the IRS issue, Pacquiao still has plenty of options to choose from should he decide to return to the ring.
The first set of contenders as to whom Pacquiao may end up fighting next could be those pugilists signed to the Filipino’s longtime promoter Top Rank. For the last few years, there have been talks of a potential fight between Pacquiao and three-division champion Terence Crawford (33-0, 24 KOs). At this point, Crawford would be a considerable favorite over Pacquiao. While the Matthysse victory showcased that Pacquiao is still a fighter capable of defeating quality opponents, Matthysse did not provide the Filipino with any real resistance. Crawford and Vasiliy Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs) would present difficult problems for the ‘Pac-Man.’
There have been rumors of a potential clash between Pacquiao and Lomachenko in the 140 or 135-pound divisions. In the case of Lomachenko, Pacquiao will be fighting someone who is physically smaller than him for the first time in quite a while. Lomachenko and his team recently stated that they would not be willing to move up to 140-pounds to meet Pacquiao but instead wanted the bout at 135-pounds. Pacquiao has not fought at 135 since 2008. Should Pacquiao-Lomachenko get made it will be reminiscent of when the Filipino faced off against Hall-of-Famer Oscar De La Hoya. In that fight, Pacquiao was the smaller fighter, but he was in his prime and the much faster fighter. At 39-years of age, Pacquiao could have a dose of déjà vu against the Ukrainian.
The remaining welterweights that the Filipino senator could face are Errol Spence Jr., Danny Garcia, Shawn Porter and Keith Thurman. These fighters fall into the Al Haymon umbrella, and usually, this would mean that a fight with Pacquiao is unlikely. However, Pacquiao recently has made comments that he is not bound to longtime promoter Top Rank and showed against Matthysse that he could promote an event himself. Pacquiao would likely be a heavy underdog at this point against the likes of Spence. However, Thurman is a bit of an unknown commodity at this time with him having been out of the ring for over a year due to injury. It is unlikely that Thurman would step in the ring against Pacquiao in his first fight back after an extended layoff. With Thurman still holding the ‘Super’ version of the WBA welterweight title, a bout against the eight-division champion could be made now that he holds the ‘regular’ version of the WBA welterweight title.
A possible bout with the fighter that many consider to be the 'Juan Manuel Marquez' of this era, unified WBC/IBF lightweight champion Mikey Garcia would be a challenge for Pacquiao. If Pacquiao felt that he could not make the lightweight limit of 135-pounds, Garcia won a title at 140-pounds earlier this year and has expressed interest in moving up to the welterweight division. A Pacquiao-Garcia bout could be made since both fighters consider themselves free agents.
Fights with the fighters mentioned above would have to take place in the United States. If Pacquiao would like to have another fight outside of the United States, Britain’s Amir Khan should he defeat his next opponent Samuel Vargas would make for an intriguing matchup. Pacquiao and Khan in 2017 planned to have a fight in Dubai but after the money from a group of investors never materialized the bout never came to fruition. Pacquiao-Khan in England would be a massive event in the country and allow Pacquiao to gain another enormous payday before he ultimately retires.
No matter whom Pacquiao faces next, it is still apparent that his name holds weight in the world of boxing.
(Featured Photo: Wendell Alinea/MP Promotions)