Top 5 opponents for Manny Pacquiao in 2017

December 14, 2016

By CJ Russell

Manny Pacquiao will be one of the most coveted opponents for boxers in 2017.  A victory against the Filipino superstar is a one-way ticket to PPV stardom for an up-and-coming fighter, and it represents one of the biggest possible paydays for an established name.

Pacquiao showed in his November bout against Jessie Vargas that he is still a force to be reckoned with, despite juggling his senatorial duties and being 38 years old on December 17th.  I would have a hard time giving any fighter better than a 50/50 shot against the 8-time division champ.  Here are our top 5 opponents that Pacquiao could face in 2017:

#1.  Danny Garcia/Keith Thurman

I am including these two welterweights as one entry because they are fighting in a huge unification fight on March 4th, 2017.  If he decided to go this route, Pacquiao would face the victor, and the bout would be for the WBC, WBA, and WBO titles.

Garcia was supposedly offered $3 to $4 million dollars earlier this year to fight Pacquiao, but Bob Arum vehemently denied (pretty funny quote from Arum if you click that link) that he ever spoke to Garcia’s people about it.  So it’s hard to say what was happening there.  Garcia has not fought that much in recent years, and when he has, he’s generally faced sub-par opposition.  It’s kind of hard to get a read on where he is right now.  We’ll find out on March 4th when he fights Thurman.

Thurman, on the other hand, was calling out Pacquiao earlier this year when Garcia supposedly turned down the fight.  Obviously that didn’t happen, but clearly Thurman wants to fight him.  “One Time” most recently beat Shawn Porter in a thrilling fight on June 25th of this year.

The timing for this matchup would work out fairly well, because if Thurman and Garcia are fighting in March they could probably work something out for the middle of 2017, which is when Pacquiao is looking to fight next.  The most obvious roadblock to this bout happening is that Thurman and Garcia are advised by Al Haymon’s PBC, while Pac is with Top Rank.  Supposedly the ice between the two companies has thawed, but they have yet to agree to any fights of this caliber.

#2.  Vasyl Lomachenko

Arum has repeatedly said that he wants this fight.  The obvious concern is the weight.  Lomachenko last fought at 130 compared to Pac’s 147, and while Lomachenko is planning on going up that is still quite a gap.  Freddie Roach has said that Pacquiao would be able to get down to 135, but I can’t imagine that he would want to go below 140 for this fight.

“Hi-Tech” said recently that his max weight was 135, though I believe he was speaking about the short-term.  He also said in November that he would need a year to prepare for Pacquiao, so if this fight happened it wouldn’t be until the end of 2017.

This fight seems like it would be a little bit too difficult to pull off with the weight issue.  It would be a great one to see, but the gap is too big at this point, especially with the limited amount of time that Pacquiao has left in his career.

#3.  Terence Crawford

It seems like we have been talking about this fight forever.  Crawford was heavily rumored to be Pacquiao’s next opponent after coming back from his short retirement, and the Omaha, Nebraska native has been discussed as a possible Pacquiao opponent ever since.

Pac-Crawford seems like a no-brainer on paper, because they are close in weight and both promoted by Top Rank.  Like I said earlier, a win for a guy like Crawford would be huge for his career.  His PPV numbers haven’t been that good, but beating Pacquiao would change that.  A Pacquiao victory would be an amazing end to his career, as Crawford is a consensus top 10 P4P fighter.

However, it seems like the problem is that Freddie Roach, and possibly Pacquiao himself, don’t want to fight Crawford.  Roach did say that the fight was possible if they couldn’t work out other fights, but I guess he doesn’t think that their styles would mix well.  I’d say keep this one in the back of your mind, but don’t count on it.

#4.  Floyd Mayweather Jr.

When Mayweather showed up at Pacquiao’s fight against Jessie Vargas, it really seemed like Pac-Mayweather II was going to happen.  Arum thought there was a 75% chance, Mayweather said a comeback was possible, Pacquiao said he wanted to face him, and Mayweather’s reasoning for being at Pac’s fight of “I just wanted to take my daughter out” was suspect.  50-0 plus another huge payday were thought to be calling out to Mayweather and it seemed like it would be too good to resist.

Since then, however, Mayweather has been adamant that he is retired.  Honestly, from the way things look now, I don’t think he’s budging.  If he does change his mind, any plans that Pacquiao had will likely be scrapped and he’ll face Mayweather again.

#5.  Canelo Alvarez

This has been the hot matchup idea for Pacquiao in recent weeks.  Freddie Roach said that this is the fight he wants the most, over Crawford or anyone except Mayweather.  It makes a good amount of sense, so long as they can work out a reasonable weight agreement.  This would be a gigantic payday for both fighters, and I would imagine it would be the second highest grossing boxing event ever, next to Pac-Mayweather.

One thing that made me suspect that the fight is being talked about between the fighters’ respective promoters, along with Roach mentioning it, is the fact that Golden Boy wants Canelo to defend his 154lb title upon coming back from his hand injury, despite their supposed plans for him to face Gennady Golovkin in September 2017 (which De La Hoya is guaranteeing happens).  Keeping Canelo down in weight could make a Pacquiao fight more possible, and him staying at 154 doesn’t really make sense in any other context.  But with Golden Boy President Eric Gomez saying that they would consider a fight with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. at a catchweight in the 165lb range, I really have no idea what they are thinking.  Stay tuned on this one.

Conclusion

I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Pacquiao didn’t face any of these fighters.  My criteria for this list was the “top” fights that could be made, not the most likely.  Mayweather-Pacquiao is very unlikely, and I doubt he will face Crawford or Lomachenko either.  I don’t think anybody expected or wanted him to face Tim Bradley for a third time, same goes for Jessie Vargas.  Arum threw out Jeff Horn’s name yesterday as a possible Pacquiao opponent.  So expect the unexpected.  Let us know what you think!

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