This Saturday night, the focus in combat sports will be squarely on the shoulders of one man: Manny Pacquiao. The boxing sensation takes to the ring Saturday to face Timothy Bradley. But in the build-up to this fight, the big topic of conversation seems to be - what next? What will come next for Pacquiao after Saturday night? And there are three somewhat surprising possible answers that have come up lately.
Option #1 - Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather
You don't have to be much of a boxing fan to know that this is the golden ticket, the dream fight everyone has been talking about for some time. But as time goes on, it's seeming more and more likely that this is not going to happen. Still, the spectre of a Mayweather showdown looms large over every Pacquiao fight, and this one is no exception. Here's Scott Chris from Bad Left Hook on how Mayweather fits into the Pacquiao vs. Bradley build:
Bradley seems totally unconcerned about anything to do with Mayweather, which is good. "The fight will never happen," he says of Pacquiao vs Mayweather (or Mayweather vs Pacquiao, whatever), echoing what many of us have come to believe.
Top Rank officials act like they think it's possible. Manny's team says, "Well if it happens..." But let's be serious. It should have happened three times over by now. It hasn't. Is there any real hope it will before it's as close to irrelevant as it can possibly become?
"Every big fight in the history of boxing has happened," trainer Freddie Roach says. "I hope they do it before it's too late."
Check out this SB Nation promo video for more.
Options 2 and 3 after the jump.
Option #2 - Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez IV
It's rare that we get the quadrilogy in combat sports, but in the case of Pacquiao and Marquez, it's actually warranted. Over the course of three excellent fights, these men have come out virtually even every time. In their last fight, a lot of observers thought Pacquiao looked vulnerable, and Marquez wants another shot. It's a smart move for Marquez, as this is clearly the biggest money fight available, and would definitely draw interest. Bad Left Hook reports that Marquez will be at ringside Saturday. Should Pacquiao defeat Bradley, expect Marquez to call out his rival that night.
Of the three options, I see this fight as the most likely.
Option #3 - Retirement
Surprisingly, of all three options, this is the one that is getting the most talk. After a lackluster showing against Shane Mosely last May, and a razor thin win over Marquez last November, many feel that Pacquiao may be in the final stages of his career, and in fact that Saturday could possibly be his final fight. Here's Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach once again, ths time courtesy of our own Nate Wilcox:
"If [Manny] looks bad, he retires," Roach said. "At least I'll tell him to. And he may be the first one who will listen to me."
You'll note here that this is not just discussion of if Pacquiao loses, it's also if he wins but doesn't look good. Now, it must be noted that this is Roach talking, not Pacquiao. But the fact that this is even an option speaks volumes. We've seen many instances in combat sports where once you begin talking retirement, once your mind goes in that direction, you begin to slip even more and that retirement comes even faster.
Do I honestly think this is the last time we'll ever see Manny Pacquiao box? No I don't. But it's an option, and that alone has my interest.