Who's next for Mayweather, Pacquiao?

January, 8, 2014
Jan 8
3:18
PM ET
Manny Pacquiao-Freddie RoachChris Farina/Top RankFreddie Roach, here with Manny Pacquiao, is a five-time trainer of the year.
Boxing fans are keen to see Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao square off, but that faceoff always seems to stall on the runway. It looks like we'll have to be content to learn, in the near future, who each man will next fight.

Floyd has been teasing foes for a few months, expertly tantalizing us fools ... er ... fightwriters, with hints and commentaries about Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana in interviews and on social media. Meanwhile, it looks like we should know pretty soon who will be across the ring from 35-year-old Pacquiao when the Congressman next rumbles. I spoke to Pacman's trainer, Freddie Roach, from his gym in California. I asked the five-time trainer of the year who he'd like Manny to square off with.

"I want Manny to look good in his next fight, and I think maybe [rumored foe] Tim Bradley wants too much money. Plus I think he will run all night and make for a poor showing for Manny," said Roach. The California-based Bradley, holds a mega-controversial win over Pacquiao in their June 9, 2012 tussle. "Ruslan Provodnikov is a better fight for Manny. They are good friends, though."

Yes, Provodnikov's come-forward manner would seem to play into the 55-5-2 Pacman's strengths better than Bradley, who showed in his last fight, a win against Pacquiao-rival-for-the-ages Juan Manuel Marquez in October, that he has mastered his brand of pugilism. That brand features slick movement, smart offense and superb stamina, to great effect. But the fact that he considers himself pals with the Filipino, stemming from a relationship formed when Provodnikov served as a sparring partner for the eight-division champion, could muddy the mix. That and the fact that Roach trains both men.

Freddie jokingly said that last potential hurdle could be overcome if he agreed to work Manny's corner in round one, then Ruslan's in round two and so on, if promoter Bob Arum and Team Pacquiao decide on the "Siberian Rocky" to meet Manny in Vegas in April.

And if those Plans A and B don't pan out, Roach could see Arum and Manny looking outside the box for a good foe. "Someone will cross over," Roach told me, mentioning Danny Garcia by name, and suggesting that some fighter who works with uber advisor Al Haymon, and fights under the Golden Boy promotional umbrella, could be lured into a Pacman clash.

In 2013, a cold war of sorts broke out when HBO, which buys a large portion of their fights from Arum, announced they wouldn't buy bouts from Golden Boy. Roach seems to think that fractured relationship could be healed, and a Golden Boy boxer could do battle against Pacman on HBO's air. This is boxing. Stranger things have happened.

Roach went on to say that another smart option would be to scour Floyd Mayweathers' most recent victories, the last five victims or so, choose one, and beat them in a manner more decisive than Floyd did. "I don't want my own guy, Ruslan, losing, because we've worked so hard on making him what he is today," Roach continued. "But my sense is, when it comes down to it, it could be Ruslan next for Manny. He comes in to town today. I've asked him about it, and he said he'd rather retire [than fight Manny]. And I said it would be a big payday and his family would be secure. He said, 'I don't fight for money, I fight for love of sport.' He doesn't care how much he could make. I told him I wouldn't blame him if he took the fight. We have to make a living and our activity time is very short. I'm trying not to make it happen, but to be honest, it's probably the best fight for Manny. I've seen them spar many times and it is competitive."

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Michael Woods, a member of the board of the Boxing Writers Association of America, has been covering boxing since 1991. He writes about boxing for ESPN The Magazine and is the news editor for TheSweetScience.com.

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