On Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, the world witnessed everything it has come to expect from a Floyd Mayweather pay per view event. There was the pomp and circumstance, the pageantry, the lights and sounds and the atmosphere. Celebrities lined the ringside seats to get a close look at the fighter known as “Money.” The “cheap” seats, and I use that phrase extremely loosely, were filled with raucous fans cheering for Mayweather to suffer his first professional defeat (this time at the hands of Mexican Saul “Canelo” Alvarez). Rapper Lil’ Wayne and pop star Justin Bieber lead “Money” to the ring. Once he got there, Mayweather did what he seemingly always does… dominate his opponent with exceptional defense and clean, head-snapping punches.
As soon as the fight was over (and maybe even before that given that Mayweather so thoroughly dominated Canelo that no one, except for the incompetent judge CJ Ross, thought Canelo was even competitive), the talk turned to who would be next to attempt the first loss on the now 45-0 pound for pound ruler. This time, however, the answer of “who’s next” does not seem so simple. There is no clear answer. In an attempt to answer it, we will look at some possibilities and eliminate the opponents that would not fit until we find some possibilities.
To do this, the first place to look is the state of the boxing business. As it stands right now, Mayweather is advised by Al Haymon, works with promoter Golden Boy Promotions on a fight by fight basis and is contractually tied to Showtime for four more fights. This is important because it means two groups of fighters are automatically excluded from having any possibility of facing “Money.” The first group of fighters that must be excluded are any fighters under promotional contract with Top Rank. Simply put, Golden Boy and Al Haymon do not do business or make any fights with the promotional entity run by Bob Arum. Thus, notable opponents such as the winner of the Juan Manuel Marquez – Tim Bradley October 12, 2013 fight, the winner of the Manny Pacquiao – Brandon Rios November 23, 2013 fight, Mike Alvarado or even Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. (weight issues would prevent that fight as well) are eliminated from contention in the Mayweather sweepstakes. Bradley in particular, should he beat Marquez, would be an extremely viable opponent as an undefeated American with wins over a number of top opponents including Pacquiao (even though everyone thought he lost that fight). While sad, such are the facts of the business of boxing.
The second group are any non-Top Rank boxers who are contracted and/or strongly aligned with Showtime’s rival premium cable network, HBO. Most notably this would include middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. The Lou DiBella promoted Argentine has stated his willingness to move down to a 154 pound catchweight (probably Martinez’ natural weight) in order to secure a big money matchup with Mayweather. Such a fight would allow Mayweather a chance to win a championship in his third weight class and a title in his sixth. HBO has invested a ton of money in Martinez and would not allow him to defect to their rival. Additionally, they can provide a pay per view paydays to “Maravilla” against Miguel Cotto, Andre Ward or, potentially, Gennady Golovkin. It just will not happen. Other HBO aligned fighters that are ruled out for a Mayweather fight include Ward (weight issues and friendship would scuttle that bout as well), Golovkin (even though he would also go to 154 for the chance), Cotto (who Mayweather has already beaten but has a substantial fan base) and Ruslan Provodnikov.
Basically, that leaves only fighters associated with Golden Boy and Al Haymon. With the field narrowed down, we turn to weight classes. With his victory over Canelo, Mayweather is now the champion at both welterweight and junior middleweight (for those who keep track of the alphabet soup of sanctioning bodies, “Money” is the WBC welterweight titlist and the WBC and WBA junior middleweight titlist). However, Mayweather has only fought at 154 pounds three times and all of those fights were mega-money matches against Oscar De La Hoya, Cotto and Canelo. There are no such Golden Boy/Haymon opponents at junior middleweight. The names they do have are Canelo, Austin Trout, Erislandy Lara and Alfredo Angulo. Mayweather dominated Canelo so thoroughly that a rematch is completely un-sellable. Trout and Angulo are both coming off defeats and that is not useful to a big promotion. While Lara’s size, exceptional technical ability (especially defensively) and good punching power could give Mayweather problems, he is extremely unknown, speaks no English and fights in a terribly un-exciting style. That basically rules out “Money” defending the junior middleweight championship (though it may help Canelo, more on that here tomorrow). As such, Mayweather is moving back down to the welterweight division where he is more comfortable.
This narrow the field down considerable… what Golden Boy/Haymon fighters could reasonably challenge Mayweather at 147 pounds. Here are the fighters, from likeliest on down:
Danny Garcia: The leader in the clubhouse is the fighter who upset Lucas Matthysse to become the recognized champion at junior welterweight. Garcia has been known as a fighter who is good at everything, defense, counterpunching, speed and a knockout causing left hook, but is great at nothing. That said, it was thought that stylistically, Erik Morales pressure would be too much for him, Amir Khan was too speedy and skilled, Zab Judah was too fast and strong a puncher and Matthysse was too much everything for him. All Garcia did was beat each one of those fighters. He even knocked out Morales (in the rematch) and Khan and knocked down all of them. Although he is a mild-mannered guy which may hurt a promotion, his background reaches out to the strong Puerto Rican and Philadelphia fan bases and his father/trainer, Angel Garcia, is an outspoken individual (that is putting it extremely lightly) who can push the promotion. While that puts him in the lead, Garcia is still largely unknown. He has only appeared in two HBO main events, two Showtime main events and one Mayweather pay per view undercard. Compared to Canelo’s resume, or even “Money’s” May opponent, Robert Guerrero’s resume, it is quite light. It would probably help his cause, not to mention his chances in the fight (a fight with Mayweather would be in May, 2014 and a young fighter like Garcia needs activity) if he fights again. Specifically, it would help if he fights in early 2014 (perhaps the night before the Super Bowl?) against a widely recognized opponent (a rematch with Ortiz or a welterweight titlist) in an east coast venue filled with fans. That would raise his stock enough to transition him from the leader in the clubhouse to the publicly demanded Mayweather opponent.
Amir Khan: Khan’s positioning in this list is very fluid. Although not official, Khan will likely challenge IBF welterweight titlist Devon Alexander on December 7, 2014 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on Showtime. Should he lose, he would not only be eliminated from this list but he may be excluded from world class boxing in the near future. On the other side, if Khan wins, especially if he does so in impressive fashion or by knockout, he probably jumps ahead of Garcia to number one on this list. Khan was an unbelievable impressive amateur who captured a silver medal in 2004 Olympics and avenged his loss in the Olympics before turning professional. He also has impressive professional victories over Paulie Malignaggi, Judah and Marcos Maidana. Maybe more importantly, he is a promoters dream as he is loquacious and makes a fight with Mayweather a lucrative pay per view in Khan’s native Great Britain (the two could also put 80,000 fans in London’s Wembley Stadium but, despite Mayweather’s statements to the contrary, business and network issues will not allow such a possibility to occur). That said, Khan’s chin issues (he was knocked out by Bredis Prescott, who has failed to beat a world class opponent since then, and Garcia) may make promoting the fight a trick proposition as the public perception would make Mayweather a huge favorite in the fight.
Devon Alexander: Again, Alexander’s place on this list is dependent on him beating Khan in December. Further, Alexander has a reputation (most likely well deserved) as a fighter who wins using a boring and not-very-television-friendly style. So even if he beats Khan, Alexander may not do much to raise public demand for him to fight Mayweather. That said, Mayweather mentioned him as a potential opponent before agreeing to face Guerrero in May.
Marcos Maidana: The Argentine is recognized as an aggressive fighter with concussive power and an exciting television fighter. On the other hand, he has a loss to Khan. He would also have to beat Adrien Broner in a not-yet-finalized December 14, 2013 pay per view fight. That is a huge task. Again, the jury is out.
Adrien Broner: Of course, he would have to beat Maidana and do good pay per view sales to be considered as his competition to this point has been less than notable. Regardless, Broner can talk a great game and may be the only fighter in the game who fans would root for Mayweather to beat. This would be marketable but given that the fighters have said they have a sibling-type relationship, it is not likely. Both fighters would change their minds if the money was big enough and, at this point, it would not be.
Everyone else at the weight class needs more work. Keith Thurman is the “interim” WBA titlist but he has never headlined a premium cable show. Malignaggi, Judah and Andre Berto are all coming off losses. No one would give Jose Soto-Karass a chance at winning.
The choices for Mayweather are limited and, quite frankly, are not nearly as lucrative as the Canelo bout. On the bright side, the opponent for Mayweather’s next fight does not have to be chosen for about four months. A lot of boxing will be done in that time and, by then, the landscape should be clearer. To paraphrase a title from Mayweather’s first record-setting pay per view, the world will have to wait.