Manny Pacquiao v Jessie Vargas
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Top 5 Potential Matchups for Manny Pacquiao in 2017

Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 Kos) has built one of the most impressive resumes in modern boxing history through his struggle from devastating poverty to immense prosperity.  It doesn’t matter if one is a detractor or fan; he is a fistic legend, future first ballot Hall of Fame entrant and an amazing human interest story.

After a brief seven month “retirement,” Pacquiao returned this month to repossess the WBO Welterweight belt kept warm by a game but overmatched Jessie Vargas via unanimous decision.

The slugging southpaw senator of General Santos City is almost 38 years old and certainly in the twilight of a remarkable career that includes world championship titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions.

Pacquiao’s pilgrimage to the rocking chair is not yet complete and he plans to campaign both politically and pugilistically in 2017.

There is definitely no shortage of young guns who would like to help Pacquiao take a seat–here are the five most viable opponents.


Errol Spence Jr.

Errol Spence Leonard Bundu - Bigio
Photo by Janer Bigio

Errol “The Truth” Spence Jr (21-0, 18 KOs) is unquestionably one of the most exciting prospects at 147 pounds. His gaudy record would suggest that he may possess the power it takes to replicate Juan Manual Marquez’s devastating knockout of Manny Pacquiao, but is that “the truth?”

As is the case with many young fighters being groomed for success, the majority of his experience has come against limited competition which contributes to the impressive knockout percentage.

Every time Spence has raised the level of his opposition he has performed beautifully and with notable discipline. He slips punches well and rips counters to his rivals head and body with frightening accuracy.

America has largely been an ally of the Philippines historically, but who would win this war between the two southpaws?

One would think that Spence would have the fresher legs being 11 years Pacquiao’s junior. He uses them well and has excellent footwork while Pac uses his foot speed as a weapon to create openings as he attacks from unexpected angles.

Spence is four inches taller than Pacquiao which is unlikely to be of any substantial consequence as the Filipino has made a career of defeating larger rivals.

Expect Spence to be a big name in the future of Welterweight boxing as he continues to develop. As for the year 2017, Pacquiao is too fast, aggressive and experienced for the young challenger.


Kell Brook

Kell Brook vs Shawn Porter
Photo by Esther Lin

This is an intriguing matchup that would feature two fearless fighters in a Welterweight unification match.

Kell “Special K” Brook (36-1, 25 KOs) is coming off his sole defeat after moving up two weight classes to challenge the Middleweight destroyer, Gennady Golovkin who fellow Middleweights seem to avoid like the plague.

An appointment to meet “The Legend,” Manny Pacquiao would not awe the orthodox fighter from the United Kingdom, though one must wonder if the fight venue would be a factor. Typically, a fight with Pacquiao takes place in the U.S. or possibly China.

Brook has contended all but two of his professional bouts in his homeland, including the aforementioned clash with GGG. It is notable however, that he traveled to Carson, CA to usurp the IBF Welterweight championship from Shawn Porter in 2014.

Brook has struggled on occasion with opponents who are not on his level, but has proven to raise his game when facing world class opposition and it can be expected that Pacquiao would add some nitro to Kell’s tank.

Both fighters will dart in and out looking for their respective shots and will be a high-action fight, certainly for the first half.

In a contest featuring this style matchup as well as the extra ingredient of southpaw vs. orthodox, an unfortunate clash of heads is probable.

Expect Pacquiao to emerge victorious in an exciting and sometimes ugly fight.


Terence Crawford

Terence Crawford Hank Lundy Marilyn Paulino
Photo by Marilyn Paulino

A match between Manny Pacquiao and Terence “Bud” Crawford (29-0, 20 KOs) is very interesting and has the extra intrigue of likely happening at 140 pounds, a weight at which the Filipino icon has not competed since 2008.

Crawford solidified his claim as one of boxing’s best young stars with a startling stoppage of Yuriorkis Gamboa in front a frenetic hometown crowd in Omaha, Nebraska. Her is the WBO Super Lightweight champion, a vacant title he earned with a stoppage win over Thomas Dulorme.

Since winning his first title at Lightweight over Ricky Burns, Crawford has since become recognized as a top 10 pound-for-pound fighter.

The American most recently added the WBC Super Lightweight strap to his collection as he defeated the tough and previously undefeated Viktor Postol in July.

A major question in this potential match is if Pacquiao can still be the ball of fury at Super Lightweight that he was almost a decade ago.

Pursuant to his dominant victory over Jesse Vargas earlier this month, Pacquiao said that it would not be a problem and he has always been a very small Welterweight. It is still cause for concern, however as the boneyard of former champions is littered with those who attempted the same with disastrous results.

Don’t expect that to be the case if this matchup comes to fruition in 2017. There is however, an absolute expiration date for this clash. If it does not occur in the senator’s next three or four fights, his chances of emerging victorious shrink exponentially.


Danny Garcia

PBC on Spike: Danny Garcia v Samuel Vargas
Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

Danny “Swift” Garcia (32-0, 18 Kos) vs. Manny Pacquiao would be as polarizing to the boxing fan base as any current potential matchup.

After stopping Amir Khan, Garcia had built a solid following and the eyes of many were upon him, pontificating about tough future matches. The constant crowing of his father, Angel Garcia, about his son’s ability suggested the best was yet to come.

It certainly seems to be a well-deserved criticism that Garcia has done anything but take on the best since that point. He has a number of notable names on his resume since then, however they are warriors whose best days have long passed.

Garcia was very fortunate to escape with a majority decision victory against Mauricio Herrera in what was supposed to be his homecoming in Puerto Rico and followed that fight against the much unheralded Rod Salka five months later which subsequently damaged his reputation.  He recently blew away 45th ranked Samuel Vargas as expected, though to his credit Garcia is expected to face Keith Thurman in March of 2017.

We know the kind of fighter that Pacquiao is, however we are still learning about Garcia. Garcia is absolutely a known commodity with boxing ability, speed and ring generalship. What is baffling is his apparent reluctance to step up and if there is perhaps a reason for that which is yet to be revealed.

Should a bout between Garcia and Pacquiao occur at 147 in 2017 it is a tough one to call because of the aforementioned unknown intangibles.

It is easy to see a decision victory for either fighter but expect it to go to the more reliable, proven product of the Philippines in a competitive fight.


Keith Thurman

Keith Thurman vs. Shawn Porter - MVP RBRBoxing (21)
Photo by Marilyn Paulino/Round By Round Boxing

Keith “One Time” Thurman (27-0, 22 KOs) is the reigning WBA Welterweight world champion and arguably the finest 147 pound fighter in the world.

The hard punching Clearwater, Florida native has displayed impressive style versatility as he has developed his career. While he does possess formidable power in either hand, Thurman is an underrated counterpuncher and uses his feet to gain proper punch positioning.

Thurman has faced solid opposition on his rise to prominence and is largely recognized in the top 10 pound for pound active fighters. Thurman appears unconcerned about risking his glossy undefeated record and has called out the best fighters his division has to offer.

He recently emerged victorious in just such a fight with the rugged, top ranked Shawn Porter. It was his toughest challenge to date and one of the very best fights of 2016.

Pacquiao vs. Thurman in a unification bout would be a great matchup with styles that guarantee fireworks when they clash.

Thurman certainly has the power to hurt Pacquiao though one must consider how One Time would deal with Pac’s whirling southpaw attack and the fastest feet he has encountered to date.

The Philippines would have one more reason to celebrate its favorite son after 12 hard rounds in a certain Fight of the Year candidate.


Bonus Matchup: Floyd Mayweather Jr.

010_Floyd_Mayweather_vs_Manny_Pacquiao
Photo by Esther Lin

In the occasion that Manny Pacquiao fulfills one or two of the aforementioned predictions, interest will build for a rematch when Floyd “Money” Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs) inevitably returns for his 50th professional fight.

The fight will still garner mainstream attention, though it is impossible for any bout in the foreseeable future to match the fervor of “The Fight of the Century.”

Regardless, Mayweather vs. Pacquiao II is the biggest fight in boxing purely from a revenue perspective. There are legions of hardcore boxing fans that have little-to-no interest in a rematch, but will tune in when the money grab makes the rematch irresistible to the participants.

Still, there are some questions that would be answered in this fight.

If the fight were to take place at AT&T Stadium in Texas as suggested, how would this effect Mayweather? It is generally accepted that from years of fighting, Money has developed fragile hands and has Lidocaine and Xylocaine injections (only legal in Vegas) prior to stepping into the ring.

How much did Pacquiao’s torn rotator cuff detract from his performance in their first fight? Pac Man certainly did appear to be missing certain components to his usual slashing, devastating offense.

Would employing a referee not named Kenny Bayless have any bearing on the result the second time around? Bayless certainly has seemed to apply selective discipline in a number of Mayweather’s fights.

What if both fighters are allowed to use whichever brand of glove? Mayweather with his Everlast and Pacquiao with “the punchers glove,” Cleto Reyes.

This fight would be marketed and engineered to extract every dime possible from consumers both casual and die hard alike. It will never do the numbers of the first encounter, but even if it does half it will be among the largest grossing fights in history and likely the biggest rematch of all time, financially speaking.

All questions both legitimate and manufactured will be answered over another 12 somewhat disappointing rounds. The rematch will not be as much of a flop as expectations will be far lower than in their first encounter, though the result will be the same.

Pacquiao does well against offensive minded fighters, which the previous five are to varying degrees. Styles make fights and this is why Pac can still be competitive and victorious against the top fighters, even at almost 38 years of age.

Mayweather simply has the beat when it comes to Pacquiao’s style and knows how to turn his assets into liabilities. Money’s defensive, counterpunching prowess will again neutralize Pacquiao’s aggression resulting in his 50th victory and a final retirement party for both legends.

 

 

Proud Dad, lifelong boxing fanatic and a work in progess. http://RoundbyRoundBoxing.com. Follow Mike on IG @mpbtampa

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