By Kelsey McCarson for bleacher report (Photo by Eric Jamison/AP)
Manny Pacquiao is running out of options.
Coming off the most lucrative fight in boxing history against the since-retired Floyd Mayweather Jr. and back from a shoulder injury that kept him from performing his best in the 12-round decision loss, Pacquiao would appear to need his old rival, Juan Manuel Marquez, more than ever now if he’s to return to boxing.
According to the Las-Vegas Review Journal’s Steve Carp, Pacquiao will indeed make his way back to the ring sometime in early 2016.
If that’s the case, Pacquiao-Marquez 5 is Pacquiao’s only real option.
Marquez hasn’t been inside a boxing ring for over a year now since suffering a reported knee injury against Mike Alvarado in May 2014. Marquez was the victor that night, but as with Pacquiao, it seems the rough and tough ring wars he’d endured over his legendary career are finally starting to catch up to him.
But as noted by USA Today’s Mike Coppinger, Marquez still wants to fight.
Truth be told, there is little left for either man to prove at this point. Both will first-ballot Hall of Famers when the time comes, and both will go down in history as boxing greats.
Regardless, the two might still feel they have something to prove to each other, and both might see a swan song win against the other as the best way to end their historic careers.
Pacquiao and Marquez have fought each other four times. Pacquiao is 2-1-1 against his rival, though, Marquez scored the only knockout win of the series when he cracked Pacquiao with a perfect counterpunch in December 2012.
As it was in that last encounter, before the stunning knockout, the two fighters have fought close and competitive fights against each other every time out, leaving fans and media arguing over their final score tallies for years after.
Forget the so-called Fight of the Century last May 2, Pacquiao-Marquez bouts always deliver action.
And without a Mayweather rematch, something most fans probably don’t want to see anyway, Pacquiao’s options for future fight dates appear to be fairly limited.
Sure, he could face fellow Top Rank fighter Terence Crawford in a sort of pass-the-torch bout.
But Crawford just now moved up to 140 pounds and has yet to really establish himself as elite at the weight. A bout between the two would seem rushed right now, and Pacquiao still competes at such a high level that it would almost be foolish to hurry the undefeated Crawford in there against him so soon.
A third fight with Timothy Bradley might make some sense. But Pacquiao easily outpointed Bradley in their 2014 rematch and appeared to do the same in their first fight, a bout shockingly awarded to Bradley via split decision.
As good as Bradley is, there’s not question Pacquiao is better.
With many of the other top welterweights presumably unavailable for Pacquiao because of their affiliation with Al Haymon, about the only possible options who seem reasonable at all end up being Marquez, Sadam Ali and maybe 140-pounder LucasMatthysse.
While Matthysse would at least present Pacquiao with a formidable offensive assault, a Pacquiao-Matthysse bout (as compelling as it may be) would probably not garner the interest level of a fifth fight against Marquez.
And let’s face it, as good as Ali has looked so far, he doesn’t yet possess an elite enough win that might catapult him into the conversation.
So as long as Pacquiao is headed back to the ring and not taking Mayweather’s lead and retiring, it would seem Marquez is the ideal candidate.
They are two great rivals at the end of their careers. No one will ever be able to bring up one man without mentioning the other. And every single round of all four fights has been close and compelling.
Pacquiao-Marquez 5 is the fight to make.
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