- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Before Floyd Mayweather Jr. announced Wednesday that he will fight Miguel Cotto on May 5, both of them were discussed as potential opponents for Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao-Mayweather looms as the biggest fight in boxing -- if it ever happens -- and a Pacquiao-Cotto rematch of their 2009 blockbuster would surely have generated heat.
But with Mayweather and Cotto now set to meet for Cotto's junior middleweight title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, both of them officially came off the board for Pacquiao, who instead is moving closer to a fight with junior welterweight titleholder Timothy Bradley Jr.
Pacquiao will fight June 9, also at the MGM Grand, and Top Rank stablemate Bradley is sitting in the lead position.
"We're discussing the fight with both parties," Top Rank president Todd duBoef told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "We're in the process of having the conversations with (Bradley manager) Cameron (Dunkin) and we're also having them with the Pacquiao team. It's a very active dialogue."
Bradley would move up in weight to challenge Pacquiao for his version of the welterweight title. After leaving co-promoters Gary Shaw and Ken Thompson -- a case that is still in litigation -- Bradley signed last year with Top Rank with the understanding that, although not a contractual commitment, he would be in the running to face Pacquiao.
When Top Rank boss Bob Arum visited Pacquiao recently in the Philippines, he went there to discuss four potential opponents other than Mayweather -- Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez (for a fourth fight), junior welterweight titlist Lamont Peterson and Bradley.
Arum is also trying to put together a Peterson-Marquez fight, leaving Bradley as the likely opponent for Pacquiao."We've had discussions about Bradley," Michael Koncz, Pacquiao's adviser, told ESPN.com. "But we have not agreed to take that fight yet. I had told Bob a few weeks ago not to finalize anything (with Marquez and Peterson) until you've satisfied Manny and we finalize something."
Koncz said he was traveling to San Antonio on Friday to meet with Arum, who is promoting Saturday night's Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Marco Antonio Rubio middleweight title bout there.
"I'm going to meet with Bob to discuss not only Bradley but also Marquez and Peterson because now I have to determine what is the best for Manny style-wise and also in terms of economics now that there isn't a fight with Mayweather or Cotto," Koncz said. "The majority of our discussions have been about Bradley. We have not committed to Bradley from our side, but now I need to explore the other options because of what happened (Wednesday) with Mayweather announcing that he's fighting Cotto."
Koncz said he was disappointed the fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather was not made. He also thought they would have been able to make the Cotto rematch.
Koncz said he and Mayweather had talked regularly about making the fight with Pacquiao over the past couple of months. Koncz even put them on the phone together at one point at Mayweather's request.
Koncz said last week, with the approval of Arum and Pacquiao, he offered Mayweather a guaranteed $50 million to fight Pacquiao in May with the revenue to be divided 55-45 with the lion's share going to the winner of the fight. Mayweather has said he demanded the lion's share of the money.
"I've been talking to Floyd directly and I made a commitment to keep it out of the media, but with him saying all the things that he's been saying -- that Manny ducked the fight, that Manny is only a $10 million fighter, I am compelled to talk to the media and say what really happened," he said.
"We had our deal with Arum. Both fighters were going to be guaranteed $50 million. Arum had agreed to that. The other thing was when Manny instructed me to reach out to Floyd, I informed Floyd at that time (about two months ago) that there were no more issues with blood testing. Manny agreed to everything, whenever anyone wanted, except on the day of the fight. Floyd said, 'Ok, that's great.' My discussions with Floyd were cordial, professional and during our discussions we both treated each other with the utmost respect. We didn't agree on a lot of things, but we were respectful. He has my number and he can call me any time and hopefully we can do this fight in November."
Drug-testing protocol had long been one of the hang-ups in previous discussions for the fight.
Koncz admitted he was a little surprised when Mayweather-Cotto was announced.
"We anticipated Mayweather would be off the table. I didn't expect Cotto would be," he said. "I thought he was playing hardball over the weight issue. Cotto wouldn't agree to come below 150 pounds. We wanted 147. Had he said 148? We probably could have gotten that done."
Koncz said one concern about a fight with Bradley is his tendency to lead with his head, a situation that could be exacerbated because of how sloppy fights can be between a right-hander such as Bradley and a lefty like Pacquiao.
"I've watched a couple of Bradley's fights and he's a skilled fighter but my only concern is he has comes in with his head and when have a left-hander against a right-hander head butts happen even more."
Whatever direction Pacquiao ultimately takes, Koncz said a deal will be done for Pacquiao's next opponent imminently.
"I'm confident that Bob and I will, with Manny's approval, have a deal in place by Sunday," Koncz said.
Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs), 28, of Palm Springs, Calif., comes to the party with a low profile, despite being an undefeated titleholder. He won a head butt-induced 10th-round technical decision against Devon Alexander 13 months ago, then rejected a unification fight with Amir Khan and sat out for several months while dealing with the lawsuit with his former promoters.
After signing with Top Rank, he fought on Pacquiao's Nov. 12 undercard, stopping long-faded former lightweight champion Joel Casamayor in the eighth-round of a sloppy fight.
But Bradley is in his prime, fast and experienced against good opponents. He could give Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs), 33, problems.
"I think it's a very interesting fight. Bradley is a really good boxer, very skilled in the 140-pound division," duBoef said. "Manny is a small welterweight and the guys match up really well. It's a really solid fight. Our job as promoters is to get people to know Bradley. "We can't do anything about where he was for the last coupe of years and how he was presented to the public. That was one of the reasons we put him on Manny's card in November, to start that process, to get him out there and start building the Tim Bradley brand. His skills have been fantastic, but when you're not under the right guidance they don't get exposed, and that's what we excel at."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.
Manny Pacquiao will fight June 9 at the MGM Grand, and Top Rank stablemate Bradley is sitting in the lead position.