Floyd Mayweather Jr has penciled himself in for a return to the ring in early 2013. The 35 year old five weight world champion is the current WBC welterweight and WBA light middleweight title holder with a perfect 43-0 (26 KOs) record.
Mayweather could be winding down his career (that´s a big ´´could“, as defensively skilled boxers are matching golfers for career longevity these days), but as a canny businessman Floyd will be looking for the biggest payday, with, if possible, the least amount of risk.

However, with the current crop of Usual Suspects waiting their turn, that could be easier said than done!

Since defeating Oscar De La Hoya for the WBC 154 lb. crown in 2007 in what remains the richest fight in history, every one of Mayweather´s bouts has been an ´´event“ fight. He is the undisputed PPV (pay-per-view) King of boxing, although many fight fans would argue that that fact is more down to his out of the ring behavior than any excitement he brings into the squared circle.

There is some truth to that.

Most would agree that Mayweather´s ultra-defensive style is one for the purists to appreciate, and it has only been his choice of aggressive, come-forward opponents, whether it be De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Victor Ortiz or Miguel Cotto that has provided Mayweather and the fans with his most compelling and lucrative fights.

Mayweather is now faced with a clutch of excellent options for his next bout. He could drop back down to welterweight and fight a red-hot Juan Manuel Marquez for a second time. He could risk a dogfight against the surging Robert ´´The Ghost“ Guerrero, or he could do the unthinkable and take on the man most fans would still like him to face: Manny Pacquiao.

He can stay at 154 lbs and take on Mexican sensation Saul ´´Canelo“ Alvarez, or even the regular WBA light middleweight champ and recent Cotto conqueror Austin Trout.

Or he could really risk it and fight the supreme but ageing Argentinian WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.

An announcement is expected to be made in the next few days. Until then, here is a breakdown of Floyds most likely options.

Amir Khan.

Earlier this year, this looked like a guaranteed fight for 2013. Khan was moving up to 147 after the final defense of his light welterweight titles (vs Lamont Peterson), but lost a close, controversial encounter. Then, in what looked like a straightforward redemption fight, he was KO´d in four rounds by new sensation Danny Garcia. Khan and his promoters Golden Boy intend to carry on and believe that the likable lad from Bolton still has great things to do in the ring. Khan has subsequently sacked his Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach and employed the services of the more defensive minded Virgil Hunter. He has bounced back recently with a points decision over previously unbeaten lightweight Carlos Molina, but it remains to be seen if his suspect chin will forever hold him back.

 Entertainment value of fight: B 
 Likelihood of fight taking place: E 
 Chance of victory over Mayweather: B 

Danny Garcia.

The current WBC/WBA junior welterweight champion is one of the most exciting young American prospects in the sport today. Two solid wins over future Hall of Famer Erik Morales and the devastating KO victory over Khan has boosted the 24 year-olds stock no end. He has had problems with skillful boxers in the past, and was taken the distance by veterans Kendall Holt and Nate Campbell in 2011. Garcia is penciled in for a February matchup with 35-year-old five-time world champion Zab Judah, and if he were to win that fight spectacularly, and Mayweather were to postpone his ring return until the summer, this would be a compelling fight at 147.

Entertainment value of fight: A 
Likelihood of fight taking place: C 
Chance of victory over Mayweather: B 

Brandon Rios. 

Brandon ´´Bam Bam“ Rios is a beast of a fighter, a warrior, a throwback to the days when men gladly took two or more punches to land their own bombs. Rios is arguably the most exciting fighter in the ring today, with a style loosely based on that of his friend and idol Antonio Margarito, a style built around a superhuman ability to absorb punishment before unleashing his own particular brand of mayhem. Rios has thrown off the shackles of the lightweight division where he was the undefeated WBA champion, and although currently world ranked at 140 lbs., his stocky 5’8″ frame seems destined for the welterweight division. Rios had a nightmare in April against light punching Richar Abril, and for all intents and purposes should have suffered his first professional defeat. However, he bounced back spectacularly with a sensational seventh round TKO over the previously unbeaten slugger Mike Alvarado in what was without doubt a main contender for 2012 Fight of the Year.

Entertainment value of fight: A+ 
Likelihood of fight taking place: B 
Chance of victory over Mayweather: B 



 Juan Manuel Marquez. 

Just like Rocky Balboa, Marquez seems to improve with age, no matter how many shellackings he absorbs. Rocky may have taken vicious poundings at the hands of Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago – even in winning fights, but he actually improved as a boxer as his career went on. Likewise Marquez has taken heavy punishment and had to climb up the canvas in fights against Manny Pacquiao, Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis, yet in his two most recent bouts against Pacquiao – the controversial points defeats last December and the sensational sixth round knockout win earlier this month – it could be argued that Marquez has never looked better.

This would be a fight that would be a shoe-in for next year were it not for one huge stumbling block – the two have already fought, in a snoozer of a bout in 2009 in which Marquez did not win a round. However, Marquez now looks like a different animal from the one who was dwarfed by Mayweather. Not only does he look much bigger and stronger, he is fighting more aggressively and punching with greater authority at welterweight.

 Entertainment value of fight: B 
 Likelihood of fight taking place: A 
 Chance of victory over Mayweather: B

 Timothy Bradley. 

As of yet the current WBO welterweight champion has not committed to a first title defense of the belt he won with an ultra-controversial decision over Pacquiao last June. The light punching 5’6″ Bradley has subsequently been cast in the role of persona-non-grata following his ´´victory“, and that was hardly helped by Pacquiao´s decision to fight Marquez a fourth time rather than give Bradley a big payday with a rematch. The 29-year-old American is a highly technical fighter, notorious for his frequent use of the head. Most of his recent opponents including Pacquiao have sustained vicious cuts in bouts against Bradley, and that fact allied to his lack of box-office appeal would surely make the likelihood of a Mayweather matchup a slim one.

 Entertainment value of fight: B 
 Likelihood of fight taking place: D 
 Chance of victory over Mayweather: C 



Robert ´´The Ghost“ Guerrero. 

When Robert Guerrero first started rattling his sabre as to a potential Mayweather fight back in 2011 following his one-sided win over Aussie brawler Michael Katsidis, most fight fans and ring experts were ready to lock the Californian away in a padded cell. Most of us still thought of Guerrero as the tall rangy boxer-puncher who had held the IBF featherweight title several years ago. What we didn’t know then was that ´´The Ghost“ was morphing into a different fighter altogether, and what we have now is a kind of Tomasz Adamek of the welterweight division.

Let’s face it, if Tomasz Adamek had the physical-dimensions of a Klitschko, he would be king of the heavyweights right now.

In just four years, Guerrero has added 20 pounds of muscle to his frame, and gone from a tall rangy boxer puncher into a strongly built 5’8″ puncher-boxer. Witness his sensational balls-to-the-wall performance against Andre Berto last November. Guerrero displayed tremendous grit and determination, superb stamina and fitness, good punching power and a cast iron chin to defeat the big punching former two-time world champion in another contender for Fight of the Year. Many experts believe that Guerrero, above any other potential Mayweather opponent right now, has the style and the boxing chops to become the first man to beat him. 

Entertainment value of fight: A+ 
Likelihood of fight taking place: A 
Chance of victory over Mayweather: A

Manny Pacquiao. 

What better time to take on a living legend and to get his name in the ´win` column of your CV than after he has sustained back-to-back defeats, the second one being a brutal lights-out knockout? To take nothing away from Floyd’s accomplishments in the ring, there is an undoubted precedent of him taking on opponents when they are clearly on the slide. His fights against Shane Mosley and Miguel Cotto took place years after they were first speculated upon.

Sure, Pacquiao´s losses will have taken a little of the shine off a potential fight in terms of box office appeal, but not as much as you might think. When Sugar Ray Leonard took on Tommy Hearns for a second time back in 1989, the Hitman sustained brutal knockout losses at the hands of Marvin Hagler and Iran Barkley. Indeed, the Barkley loss had only taken place the year before.

Nevertheless, the fight was a huge attraction and Hearns was unlucky to only get a draw. Marquee names are marquee names, and if Mayweather v Pacquiao were announced for the summer of 2013 tomorrow, it would probably become the richest fight in history – still.

The punch that knocked out Pacquiao would have leveled any other welterweight in the division. The loss to Bradley was no loss at all. The Filipino looked great against Bradley, and was looking pretty good against Marquez despite hitting the canvas in the third round. A rejuvinated, fired up and focused Pacquiao against a Mayweather who in his last fight – a victory over a painfully slow Miguel Cotto that nevertheless caught Floyd with more punches than any opponent in recent memory – would still be a tremendously compelling matchup. 

Entertainment value of fight: A+  
Likelihood of fight taking place: B 
Chance of victory over Mayweather: A

Austin Trout. 

If ever an American fighter has gone completely under the radar in the heavier weight classes recently it´s 27-year-old Austin ´´No Doubt“ Trout, and unbeaten (26-0, 14 KOs) southpaw from New Mexico. Trout would have stayed under the radar had it not been for Miguel Cotto’s desire to keep himself in the world championship shop window. Many fight fans have not seen the 5’10” smooth boxing Trout before, and were stunned by his comprehensive victory over the Puerto Rican. Cotto was forced to go into survival mode just to last the distance, and had Trout possessed a little more self-belief, he could well have forced a stoppage.

Trout is a BIG light middleweight, and strong with it. The only knock against him is that aside from the win over Cotto, his record reads like a ´´Who’s He?“ rather than a ´´Who’s Who?“ of boxing. Now Trout finds himself in a difficult situation: he has just shown the world what he is capable of, yet he is far from a marquee name fighter, so it will be even tougher for him to land the truly big fights he no doubt desires.

 Entertainment value of fight: B 
 Likelihood of fight taking place: C 
 Chance of victory over Mayweather: A 

Saul Alvarez. 

Perhaps more than any other fighter, a matchup between money Mayweather and WBC 154 champ Canelo Alvarez would have fight fans from Tijuana to Tasmania salivating at the mouth. Alvarez is boxing’s heir apparent, the young man who´s broad shoulders the very future of the sport are carried upon – or so some would have you believe.

There is undoubtedly a lot of hype surrounding 22-year-old Alvarez, but there is also an awful lot of talent and tremendous ring pedigree. The flame haired Mexican who Oscar De La Hoya famously said ´´looks like an Irishman, acts like an American and fights like a Mexican“ has already scored 41 victories (30 KOs) against a draw in an eight year career. It began when he was just 15 years old.

Could Canelo eventually surpass the legendary Julio Cesar Chavez as Mexico’s greatest ever boxing idol? It will certainly be difficult – Alvarez has boxed from welterweight upwards, relatively uncharted territory for fighters from south of the border with world title aspirations. He is also fighting in an era that is positively bursting with talent between 147 and 168 pounds. Alvarez himself would like nothing more than a fight with Mayweather, and as soon as possible. However his promoters at Golden Boy may wish to hang back from a fight with Floyd until they are 100% certain that he is on the slide.

Entertainment value of fight: A+ 
Likelihood of fight taking place: A 
Chance of victory over Mayweather: B

Sergio Martinez. 

For a man who turns 38 next February, Sergio ´´Maravilla“ Martinez’s work ethic remains astonishing – he is already committed to an April defense of his WBC middleweight crown against Britain’s unbeaten Martin Murray in Argentina. Clearly, Martinez is aware that he is so good that his dreams of mega-fights against the likes of Pacquiao, Mayweather, Alvarez and even 168 lb. top dog Andre Ward are unlikely to happen.

There are two reasons for this – A) despite his age, Martinez has the speed, fitness and agility of a man a decade younger. A skillful boxer who has developed into a lethal puncher, Martinez has also proven beyond doubt that he has excellent ring generalship, durability and stamina – a truly lethal combination.

B) Despite his flashy fighting style, movie star looks and smiling charisma, Martinez has been unable to draw in the US. His biggest paycheck came in his points win over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr in his last fight, and even then it was the young Mexican pretender who took the lion´s share of the purse. However, Mayweather may feel that a world title in a sixth weight class – and the iconic middleweight title at that, may be a risk worth taking.

 Entertainment value of fight: A+ 
 Likelihood of fight taking place: B 
 Chance of victory over Mayweather: A


Dan Hunter

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