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May 21, 2013

By Doveed Linder

Given the state of boxing from 140 through 154 pounds, it seems that world junior middleweight champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is Floyd Mayweather’s only option for a viable opponent later this year.  Although boxing's complicated system of sanctioning bodies, broadcast network and promotional rivalries often put the most intriguing fights unlikely to occur, the names on fans' wish lists of potential Mayweather opponents include Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley, Adrien Broner, Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse, Devon Alexander, Amir Khan, and of course Alvarez.  Let's take a quick look at each one's availability and viability:

Pacquiao is scheduled to fight Brandon Rios in December of this year (a fight that Pacquiao needs to win if he is going to remain in the discussion for major fights).  Plus, given the fact that Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations have fallen apart in the past, it is unlikely that these two will ever meet.  

Bradley is scheduled to face Juan Manuel Marquez in the fall. 

Broner is scheduled to face Paulie Malignaggi in June, plus Mayweather and Broner seem to have a bond outside the ring that would keep them from fighting. 

Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse are tentatively set to fight each other for Garcia's world junior welterweight championship. 

Besides Alvarez, this leaves Devon Alexander and Amir Khan. Neither one currently has a fight scheduled but neither one has enough momentum going at this time to warrant a pay-per-view event against Mayweather.  While Khan would attract the interest of large numbers of British and Muslim fans, that should be irrelevant given his career's recent downturn.
Since Mayweather’s return to the ring in 2009, he has faced opponents coming off meaningful victories.  Juan Manuel Marquez was coming off of two back to back stoppage wins over Joel Casamayor and Juan Diaz, Shane Mosley had just knocked out Antonio Margarito, Victor Ortiz had just beaten Andre Berto, Miguel Cotto had defeated Margarito, and Robert Guerrero beat Berto.  If Alexander was coming fresh off of his win over Marcos Maidana, maybe Mayweather-Alexander would be a strong possibility.  The same thing can be said of Khan’s victory over Zab Judah.  But the energy around Alexander and Khan have diminished since their biggest wins (Alexander has remained unbeaten since then though he has been somewhat inactive, while Khan has suffered two losses), which removes them from the equation of mega fights. 
With all of the major players at 140, 147 and 154, this leaves Alvarez as the only attractive promotion for Floyd Mayweather.  And what a promotion it would be!  The bout would feature two undefeated fighters, both who have big followings.  Some say that Mayweather-Alvarez is a fight that should wait, given Canelo’s lack of experience.  In my view, it’s a win-win fight for Team Canelo.  Should Canelo lose, he would be several million dollars richer and he will still be a marketable fighter, because there would be no shame in losing to the perceived best fighter in the world.  Also, Mayweather's style of boxing is unlikely to leave Alvarez seriously damaged, even if he does lose.

For Mayweather, there is a bit of risk involved, because if he were to come up short, he would lose the aura of invincibility which has made him the highest paid athlete in the world.  Many Mayweather critics (myself included) have accused him of avoiding the best available competition, and instead fighting B+ level fighters coming off big wins.  If Mayweather takes the fight with Canelo, his critics will be forced to give him credit for taking on a young lion who has a realistic chance of winning.  If he fights someone else or stays on the sidelines until something else comes along, it will only reinforce the idea that he is unwilling to fight the best.
Right now, there’s a lot of excitement from 140 to 147. If the expected bout materializes, Danny Garcia-Lucas Matthysse will match the two best junior welterweights in the world, leaving the winner with nothing left to prove at 140.  While some will say both fighters are too small to compete at 147 pounds, the winner of this fight would certainly be an attractive opponent for Floyd Mayweather.  

At this time, there are talks of a possible match-up between Devon Alexander and Amir Khan.  The winner of this fight would find a whole new energy behind their career and the public would begin to mention their names as an opponent for Floyd Mayweather or even Manny Pacquiao, should Pacquiao defeat Brandon Rios.  As a fan of Manny Pacquiao, Pacquiao-Rios is a fight that makes me nervous.  In my view, Pacquiao had begun to slip in his last few fights.  To see him knocked out cold at the hands of Juan Manuel Marquez suggested to me that his time might be over.  Coming back from a brutal knockout loss is tough for a fighter, especially when that fighter is in his mid 30’s and has nothing left to prove.  Will Pacquiao bounce back the way Lennox Lewis did when Lewis was knocked out by Hasim Rahman or is this the end of the road?  Should he win, he’ll have a lot of options for potential opponents, including Mayweather (in theory).

The winner of Timothy Bradley-Juan Manuel Marquez will also be in demand for a major fight, particularly if Bradley wins.  Bradley is still undefeated on paper (the majority of the boxing public believes he lost to Pacquiao no matter what the official scorecards said) and he would make a good opponent for Mayweather.  If Marquez were to win, it is unlikely that a fight between he and  Mayweather would be marketable, given how uneventful their first fight was (they fought in 2009 and Mayweather won convincingly).  But Marquez would make for a great test for Lucas Matthysse or Danny Garcia if they decided to come up to 147 or if Marquez would come down in weight.  Once Broner gets past Malignaggi (assuming he wins), it will be interesting to see what weight class he campaigns at and if his handlers are willing to put him in with some of the names that have been mentioned.  He is a great talent and a great personality and it will be fun to watch his career unfold in the next few years.  While we’re at it, let’s not forget about Andre Ward who is the world champion at 168 pounds. Ward defeated Chad Dawson, the former world light heavyweight champion and might end up moving to 175 and dominating that division as well.  I would love to see Ward face Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., Gennady Golovkin, the winner of Mikkel Kessler-Carl Froch II this weekend, Andre Dirrell, Lucian Bute, Jean Pascal and Bernard Hopkins (though Ward-Hopkins is unlikely for the same reason Mayweather-Broner is unlikely).  Watching all of these talented fighters face each other reminds me of the late 90’s and early 2000’s when fighters like Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley, Vernon Forrest, Fernando Vargas, and Winky Wright were all facing one another.  People are always talking about how boxing is a dying sport, but I think this is a hell of a time to be a fan.

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