For the sixth January in a row, Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao is still the dream match in boxing. It’s not surprising that casual fans would persist in idealizing this bout that still seems stymied by promotional impossibilities, but what’s amazing is that it’s also still the fight real boxing people most want to see.
So Mayweather-Pacquiao is still a newsworthy proposition as we weigh other desirable matches involving fighters ranked in The Ring Magazine top 10 pound-for-pound. This also accounts for all three of the Bay Area’s Kingpin Trio, even though only one of them, Andre Ward, is still in the top 10.
Mayweather, of course, is still just about untouchable as No. 1, having bumped Gilroy’s Robert Guerrero out of the top 10 last March and then beating young Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez in September.
Ward is No. 2, and still trying unsuccessfully to get shed of promoter Dan Goossen so he can hook up with Top Rank’s superior network of pay-per-view operations. Ward is still fighting at 168 pounds, but the ascension in 2013 of Adonis Stevenson as the best light-heavyweight gives Ward a legitimate target and could even become viable as a pay-per-view bout in 2014. Perhaps Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. would be the most lucrative opponent for Ward in the meantime.
No. 3 Timothy Bradley, who outlasted upstart slugger Ruslan Provodnikov last spring in what many considered the fight of the year and then defeated Juan Manuel Marquez in the fall, could do worse than Guerrero in a bout we’d love to see right here in San Jose. But Guerrero is a Golden Boy fighter and Bradley is now with Top Rank, so don’t bet on that.Unfortunately for Bradley but perhaps fortunately for Guerrero, Golden Boy, Showtime and Al Haymon have most of the welterweight leverage.
No. 4 Wladimir Klitschko has beaten all comers in the heavyweight division except his older brother, Vitali, and now that Vitali is in a position to become the leader of the Ukraine, Wladimir’s career ought to wind down quickly so he can go out on top.
No. 5 Sergio Martinez hasn’t done anything since holding on to beat Chavez Jr. in fall 2012, but he’s still recognized as the middleweight champion despite the rise of hard-hitting sharpshooter Gennady Golovkin. Canelo Alvarez would be a great opponent for Martinez, but the Argentinian, pushing 40, might not be eager for that challenge.
No. 6 is Marquez, who’s still the opponent who could do Guerrero the most good, but what Marquez ought to do is return to 140 pound for a showdown with competent but unspectacular Danny Garcia. There’s still talk of staging Pacquiao-Marquez V.
No. 7 Pacquiao confirmed his worthiness for the top 10 by thoroughly outpointing Brandon Rios in November and did it by sustaining his attack in a way we hadn’t seen for a couple of years. That performance renewed public enthusiasm for Mayweather-Pacquiao, but Top Rank still has not been able to secure that bout for-the Filipino legend.
No. 8 Guillermo Rigondeaux got to the top 10 by upsetting Bay Area star Nonito Donaire in a 122-pound bout last April, and a rematch is the best possibility in sight financially for both of them. Donaire has most of the leverage and is insisting that the rematch be fought at 126 pounds. You can’t blame the shorter Rigondeaux, for balking at that. Rigondeaux vs. Leo Santa Cruz at 122 would be attractive if Donaire goes after Orlando Salido instead for featherweight superiority.
No. 9 is Alvarez, who can pick his spots carefully, being perhaps even more marketable than Pacquiao at this point, so he may spend 2014 beating some of the lesser 154-pound belt-holders while awaiting a bigger matchup.
And No. 10 is Carl Froch, who has gotten better since his December 2011 loss to Ward in the Showtime Super Six final. Whether he would thrive at 175 to fight Stevenson or whether he’s the ultimate opponent for Golovkin, you can bet he’d love another shot at Ward and might not be too particular about the terms.
Ward figures to fight another four or five years, and whatever he lacks in box-office pull and ring charisma he makes up in craftsmanship. Like Mayweather, he’s difficult to dominate, but unlike Mayweather, Ward generates no controversy. Maybe the Goossen divorce will alter that somehow, but it seems more likely Ward will languish again this year, and that may mean his career has already peaked.