Who will Pacquiao face in his final fight?

Manny Pacquiao to have one final fight in 2016
Photo Credit: XAUME OLLEROS/AFP/Getty Images

Last month saw Floyd Mayweather “retire” and leave Manny Pacquiao as the hottest property in the welterweight division and arguably boxing. So, with the Filipino superstar announcing that he will retire after his next fight a war is raging to become his final opponent.

It’s no surprise that a long list of boxers has been touted as potential opponents for Pacquiao, including; Amir Khan, Terence Crawford, Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse, Timothy Bradley, Kell Brook and Juan Manuel Marquez.

Danny Garcia came into the fray when Freddie Roach mentioned him in an interview with BoxingScene.com. Roach said “I like Danny Garcia, I think he’s the most exciting fight. Amir Khan and [Pacquiao] have too much of a similar style where it might be a little boring with two in and out boxers with good speed and so forth. I think Danny Garcia comes to fight. I think he looks for knockouts. I like his style and I think he and Pacquiao would be a good matchup.”

Bob Arum and Oscar De La Hoya both spoke about the possibility of Pacquiao vs. Matthysse in the build up to Matthysse’s bout with Viktor Postol. The Argentinian fan favourite was seen as a top contender until he was stopped by Postol in the 10th round of their WBC junior welterweight title fight on October 4th.

Timothy Bradley, who like Pacquiao, fights under the Top Rank banner has also been seen as a strong contender. Bradley would undoubtedly relish the opportunity to have a rubber match with Pacquiao. However, before he can emerge as a front-runner he must first overcome a formidable opponent in the shape of Brandon Rios on November 7th.

Top Rank’s Terence Crawford has been in the race from the get-go and when he easily overcame Dierry Jean on October 24th many placed him as the front-runner to face Pacquiao. Some have asserted that Crawford would be too much for Pacquiao whilst others feel Crawford hasn’t done enough to warrant such a fight. Opinions aside, one thing is certain, it’s a fight Top Rank would love to see happen.

Marquez was mentioned on a number of occasions by both Pacquiao and Bob Arum. However, it is rumoured that Marquez in not interested in making what would be his fifth encounter with Pacquiao.

IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook was also named as a possibility by Arum. Unfortunately, a rib injury has forced Brook to postpone his bout with Diego Chaves on October 24th and it’s unlikely he will be back in the ring until 2016. Brook vs. Chaves will almost certainly be rescheduled for January making a fight with Pacquiao in April seem highly unlikely.

Two-time world champion, Amir Khan, has been seen as the front-runner since day one in this whole affair. Bob Arum has stated that Khan is the only person actually in talks with Pacquiao so it’s no coincidence that both Khan and Pacquiao attended the AIBA world championships in Doha earlier this month.

During the visit, Pacquiao announced that he was running for Senate, in the Philippine Senate elections which take place in May 2016. He indicated that if he was successful in his bid that he will be retiring from boxing to focus on politics. That would make his next fight his last.

Talk of elections quickly changed to boxing and in an interview with BEin Sports Pacquiao spoke positively about a potential fight with Khan.

So, it came as a shock when just a few days later, in an interview, Khan stated “I have pulled out of the negotiations. I am no longer fighting Manny Pacquiao.” During the interview Khan also told The National “They aren’t playing ball. All that was left to do is to sign the contract. But they are stalling.”

With Khan seemingly out of the running, we were left wondering why Pacquiao was stalling. Was there something or someone preventing Pacquiao from making the deal?

Well, let’s stop and rewind a step or two. During the BEin Sports interview, Pacquiao also said he would like to make a rematch with Floyd Mayweather. Now you may be thinking that’s not possible – Mayweather has retired – He said so, so did his father, and Leonard Ellerbe. Well, we all know Floyd has “retired” before, we all know he wants that 50th victory and he hasn’t actually vacated any of his belts. In fact, none of the sanctioning bodies have even stripped him of any of the titles he holds. So, was Mayweather the reason for Pacquiao stalling with Khan?

Bob Arum said he didn’t know what Pacquiao was talking about when he was asked about the chances of a rematch. He said he was unaware of any talks between the two and as far as he was concerned Mayweather is retired.

Fast-forward to Tuesday and Amir Khan is telling BBC Sport “I am the front-runner.”

Shortly after, on the same day, a video of Manny Pacquiao emerged in which he stated “We are still negotiating right now about the rematch with Floyd Mayweather.”

Now, talk of a rematch could just be posturing from Pacquiao, a way of negotiating a better deal from other potential opponents. In fact, one could easily be forgiven for thinking it is all smoke and mirrors and it may be, but only time will tell.

This week also saw Bob Arum confirm Manny’s retirement and provide a date for his final fight. Arum told ESPN.com “Manny told me this fight on April 9 will be his last fight.”

So, not only do we have confirmation of his retirement but also a date and it just so happens to be eerily close to the opening night of the new MGM/AEG arena. Yes, the same arena that wants Floyd to headline at the opening. Make of that what you will.

The race to fight Pacquiao is a murky situation, to say the least, and even Top Rank have contradictory candidate lists. Dan Rafael reported Arum as saying the final choice is between Crawford, Khan or Bradley. Whilst WBN report Top Rank’s Carl Moretti as stating that Amir Khan, Terence Crawford, Juan Manuel Marquez, Timothy Bradley and Kell Brook are all being considered.

It seems that in the battle to become Pacquiao’s final opponent there is a new story every day and sometimes twice a day. Regardless, it’s unlikely we will find out who Pacquiao will face in his final bout until late November.

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