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14 Feb 2018

Asian Boxing: The Manny Pacquiao conundrum

(Photo credit: Sunil Grover)

It has been a turbulent six months for Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2). After losing his WBO welterweight strap to Australia's Jeff Horn in an exciting encounter last July, the 'Filipino Slugger' is looking to make his next and possibly final move in the sport. Retirement, a Jeff Horn rematch and a crossover fight with Conor McGregor have all been rumoured to take place in 2018, but with Pacquiao seemingly not finished in his quest for boxing accolades it looks like Top Rank are on the verge of finalising his next opponent. 

Underwhelming options

Make no mistake - this is not the fight the fans want to see - but from a business point of view Top Rank are angling a fight with 2012 hot-prospect Mike 'Mile High' Alvarado. After mounting an impressive record of 33-0 record before his October 2012 fight with 'Bam Bam' Brandon Rios (who fights Danny Garcia this weekend), Alvarado was viewed by Top Rank as a future money-spinner in a red hot division. However, after losing his first fight by the way of a seventh round TKO to 'Bam Bam', Alvarado's promising career has begun to unravel ever since. 

'Mile High' avenged this loss sixth months later by a unanimous decision at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, however losing his next three fights against Ruslan Provodnikov, Juan Manuel Marquez and Brandon Rios (again) signalled the level that the now 37-year-old was destined to fight at.

Fast forward three years and Top Rank are now looking to cash out on the former junior welterweight champion. Having notched up four back-to-back wins against questionable opposition, Bob Arum is looking to get one final pay day out of Mike in a Top Rank derby against Pacquiao - and the 86-year-old promoter expect the fans to want to see it. Speaking to BoxingScene.com on Tuesday, Arum said “We’re making progress on it. I’m gonna talk to Michael [Koncz] tonight and hopefully wrap it all up.”

With the fight rumoured to be taking place on the Jeff Horn vs Terence Crawford undercard (Manny Pacquiao on an undercard?!), not everything is completely adding up; you have to believe that Pacquiao will have an influential hand in deciding his next opponent...

Enter Lucas Matthysse

Pacquiao doesn't want Alvarado - that is abundantly clear. Ever the entertainer, 'Pac-Man' is eyeing up a bout with Argentinean bruiser Lucas Matthysse. Always in entertaining fights, 'La Maquina' is also reaching the twilight of his glittering career, which has seen him pick up titles at welterweight and super lightweight. 

Now 35-years-old, Matthysse would provide a more interesting form of opposition than Alvarado. Granted, the Argentinean hasn't been frequently active (wins against Tewa Kiram and Emmanuel Taylor since his 2015 loss to Viktor Postol), but with a come-forward style and impressive punching power a fight with 'Pac-Man' would be a perfect yard-stick to gauge how much each fighter has left in the tank.

“I want Matthysse. This is the fight that I like and the fight fans would also like to see. I can fight in April or even May.” Pacquiao told BoxingScene.com. This fight has also been encouraged by trainer Freddie Roach, who believes Matthysse is also open to this bout. “I love that fight, one of his trainers was here the other day.” said Roach to BoxingScene.com on Thursday morning. “I took him downstairs, I gave him the tour a little bit, he pointed at a picture of Pacquiao and said, 'We want him' and I said, 'I would love for you to have him.”

Since Pacquiao's loss to Horn last year there has been plenty of gossip surrounding his relationships with Top Rank, Bob Arum and even trainer Freddie Roach. With questions arising over 'Pac-Man's' preparation for the title fight in Brisbane it is unclear if the Filipino still puts 100% trust in the team that supports him. 

Arum is looking to cash out and Roach is looking to re-light the Manny fire in an explosive return to winning ways; these objectives, however, involve different opponents. With Arum claiming the Matthysse fight “Ain't gonna' happen”, would it be a surprise if there are further stumbling blocks in getting the Filipino back into the ring? Of course not.

Who do you think Manny Pacquiao should fight next? Comment below...