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Thursday, August 1, 2013
Boxing's top 10 makeable fights

By Brian Campbell
ESPN.com

There's a certain delightful innocence in the way a young child creates a wish list of gifts without any knowledge of basic financial or logistical parameters that might stand in the way.

Casual boxing fans can sometimes be the same way.

In fact, for every starry-eyed toddler who dreams of a pony or a rocket ship to arrive on their birthday, there's an equal number of fight fans who pine for Mayweather-Pacquiao, Klitschko versus Klitschko or any number of ill-fated matchups pillaged by boxing's promotional cold war.

It's hard to fault either group for their naivety -- especially in the case of boxing, where the politics of the day have never been confused with things that actually make sense.

But although you can't always get what you want as a fight fan, if you try sometimes, as the lyric goes, you really do get what you need. And the physical incarnation of that sentiment is clearly the Sept. 14 supercard in Las Vegas.

It isn't simply the world's best fighter, Floyd Mayweather Jr., going against the grain of our own cynical expectations by agreeing to take on the bigger and dangerous Canelo Alvarez. It is the addition, to the same card, of arguably the second-best fight that could realistically be made -- Danny Garcia against Lucas Matthysse -- that helped reignite our faith in the business end of boxing.

In light of the current hot streak we're on, let's take a look at the top 10 makeable fights that could be (and in some cases are) on the horizon in the near future. This is a list of realistic unsigned fights that aren't impeded by promotional or network conflicts (or, in the case of Mikey Garcia-Nonito Donaire, a shared manager and trainer).

10. Adonis Stevenson-Sergey Kovalev
What do you get if you take two of the most devastating one-punch knockout artists in boxing and pit them against each other in a mouth-watering light heavyweight bout? A double knockout? An in-ring explosion? Black eyes for everyone in attendance? The possibilities are endless and fantastic calamity likely. This is why we watch.

Garcia-Salido
The technique of Mikey Garcia tested against that of Guillermo Rigondeaux would represent one of the best boxing chess matches that can be made.

10. (tie) Mikey Garcia-Guillermo Rigondeaux

OK, I cheated a bit right off the bat. But how can this matchup go unmentioned? If Garcia can still make 126 pounds, as he appears committed to doing, and Rigondeaux's tenuous standing with HBO gets resolved, then this would be one mighty fascinating chess match between unbeaten, pound-for-pound-caliber fighters. As long as Rigondeaux is willing to move up four pounds to featherweight, one would be hard pressed to concoct a better pairing between ring technicians.

9. Amir Khan-Victor Ortiz
Sure, there are plenty of more-important matchups to be made, especially considering that Golden Boy's cupboard is currently stocked in the welterweight division. But try, even for a second, to tell me you wouldn't cancel a hot date or reschedule your birthday should this bout between vulnerable -- and in the case of Ortiz, fantastically unpredictable -- fighters get made. Straight fireworks, homey.

8. Abner Mares-Leo Santa Cruz

In one of the rare good things to come out of the promotional cold war, a lack of big-name options for the P4P-worthy Mares has made this fight with the punch-all-night Santa Cruz a likely scenario for Golden Boy. Mares, who proved able to carry his power up to 126 pounds, would be pressured from the opening bell like never before by the taller Santa Cruz, who is coming off a successful debut at junior featherweight. We would certainly learn a lot about the potential ceiling of both fighters in this attractive showdown between young Mexican sensations.

7. Lucas Matthysse-Marcos Maidana
Despite the constant outcry from fans, this proposed battle between Argentine brawlers has been slow to gain traction due to the fact that both fighters -- who faced off four times as amateurs -- have balked at the idea. That stance appears to have softened of late, and with Maidana's welterweight resurgence and Matthysse's eventual move to 147 pounds likely, it's a can't-miss lottery ticket that Golden Boy can eventually cash in regardless of whether both fighters are red-hot or coming off defeats.

6. Sergio Martinez-Miguel Cotto
This one's all about star power. Sure, it was a bigger deal two years ago, before Cotto's two-fight losing skid and Martinez's perceived decline set in. But all things considered, the fighters might be as evenly matched today as they ever have been. And Martinez's lineal middleweight crown still means a great deal, even if the bout is contested at a catchweight closer to 154 pounds. Cotto's status as a promotional free agent, along with his recent one-fight deal to move back to HBO and original promoter Top Rank, greatly improves the chances of this fight coming off.

5. Carl Froch-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Considering that Chavez is the only current 160-pound fighter able to rehydrate up to near-cruiserweight levels in the 24 hours before each fight, his eventual move to super middleweight is inevitable. Junior also carries one of the most passionate fan bases of any current fighter, which makes a potential pay-per-view date with the similarly adored Froch a jackpot in waiting. The fight itself would probably be pretty darn good, as well.

4. Adrien Broner-Lucas Matthysse
Matthysse's fight with Garcia probably won't end up being the mere formality many have predicted it to be. But should "The Machine" survive and advance -- and should a subsequent opportunity to face Mayweather not present itself as a result -- a fight with Broner would offer an absolute truckload of intrigue. Broner's willingness to make the fight (or lack thereof) would also tell us how serious he is about finding out how great he truly is. Yeah, you guessed it: I'm involuntarily shadowboxing just thinking about this one.

Pacquiao/Manuel Marquez
The action in a fifth Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez battle would likely match (and maybe surpass?) that of their previous fights.

3. Gennady Golovkin-Sergio Martinez
Whether you believe that Golovkin would destroy the 38-year-old incumbent middleweight king or that the fight would have the potential for high-end drama, this pairing of the world's top 160-pound fighters absolutely needs to happen. Is Golovkin anywhere near as good as his staggering hype suggests? Have the stories of Martinez's decline been greatly exaggerated? Injuries to Martinez will likely delay the answer to those questions for another year. If Golovkin proves victorious, it could set up an even more appealing superfight with 168-pound kingpin Andre Ward down the line.

2. Juan Manuel Marquez-Manny Pacquiao V
Anyone remember those six rounds from last December? Yeah, I thought so. No further questions.

1. Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Adrien Broner
I know what you're saying: This fight will never happen. Broner has said time and again that he'll never fight his "big brother." And don't they share the same manager? (Although, let's be honest, which fighter associated with Golden Boy isn't currently being managed by Al Haymon?) I may be in the minority here, but I think there's a decent possibility this'll happen someday. If Mayweather remains unbeaten while continuing to defy age and Broner shows enough signs of weakness -- while keeping his perfect record intact -- there's always a chance, especially if "Money" has trouble finding suitable opponents to round out his six-fight deal with Showtime/CBS. And don't discount the potential flammability of Broner's irritating and controversial personality, which could indirectly create the fallout in their relationship necessary for this potentially monster fight to become a reality. Could you imagine the buildup and trash-talking throughout the fight's promotion?