• Steve Bunce

Pacquiao's hit list shrinking

Steve Bunce August 21, 2012
Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley may go at it again © PA Photos

Manny Pacquiao and Bob Arum are once again doing their juggling trick: they've got lots of names up in the air as potential opponents. And what I believe they, and other promoters, do in this modern digital age is stick some names out there and gauge the reaction from either Twitter or dozens of respected websites. I'm convinced promoters do that, and it doesn't just go on at the top level.

The fact is there isn't a natural contender other than the man that's been the contender since 2007: Floyd Mayweather Jnr. So, once again Pacquiao is left treading water and, once again, moving ever closer to finally getting tired of the business and walking firmly into politics full-time. It has been likely for over a year.

One name being touted is Miguel Cotto - who was stopped in the 12th when the pair fought back in 2009. Cotto's got his mojo back; the Margarito defeat all those years ago ruined him, savaged his mind, left him helpless and left him defenceless in many ways. He's cleared his head from that now by jumping all over what was left of Margarito in their rematch.

Would the public buy another Pacquiao-Cotto fight? I don't know, it was savage the first time around, and I'm not sure they'd buy it the second time round, even allowing for Cotto to have his 'head in the right place'. Amir Khan's blown it. He was on the list; had he done what he was meant to have done against Danny Garcia he'd be going into it as a potential.

Juan Manuel Marquez? They've had too many tight, close and hard fights. They'll always have wars but I've got a feeling that won't happen. Timothy Bradley is a possibility, but really all we're doing is waiting for the ink to dry on the contract which we're told has been in place for about three years, and that's the fight with Mayweather.

It has to happen at some point; it's gone past being essential, it's now more of a freak fight than an essential showdown. Had it happened three or four years ago then you could have mentioned it in the same breath as fights like Marvin Hagler-Tommy Hearns and Hagler-Roberto Duran but you can't do that now because those fights happened when they needed to happen - when the public demanded it.

If, and when, this fight happens it won't be because fans have been calling for it - they've been doing so since 2007 - it will be because the two boxers and their respective, and growing, management/promotional teams have decided that the money is right. It's sad but at the same time it will still be a relief to see it happen.

It's gone past essential in my opinion. Don't listen to anybody that tells you this is the fight that must happen. No. It's gone, it has lost that buzz. It's lost that towering degree of credibility and it will never ever get it back. Both the fighters will have to live with that, they'll have to live with the fact because of their intransigence at the negotiating table; it keeps the pair of them from joining the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard, Hearns and Hagler, and hundreds of boxers in history who have taken the challenge and fought the best men at the right time, as opposed to the best men when the money was right. That's a big difference.

Pacquiao isn't the only one jockeying for a big slot in November and December. Obviously Mayweather is out of prison and he'll be looking for a suitable and marketable sacrificial lamb and he'll do great figures at the box office. The Klitschko brothers will be looking for something big in November: maybe David Haye's that man.

Is a second Ricky Hatton-Paulie Malignaggi clash in the making? © Getty Images

Then there's the growing rumours Ricky Hatton might end up coming back - that would be a big show. Should he step back in the ring the obvious fight would be a rematch against Paulie Malignaggi (Hatton won their meeting in 2008), a fight that is under no circumstances an easy fight. Malignaggi is on a great run of form and Ricky isn't, let's not mince our words. Ricky's best days are a long time ago. But would it make enormous marketing and financial sense? Yes it would.

Ricky's in great shape, and, what's more, forget the fact he looks good physically, I would argue Ricky's head is in the best place it's been since before the Mayweather fight. That's crucial. Despite Ricky being a man of the people, he's always been a thinker. He needs, in his mind, to come back, not to exorcise the Mayweather defeat - I think he can live with that loss - but it's the Pacquiao loss that I think plagues Ricky Hatton. For that alone I think we should allow him, if he wants it and his body and mind are right, a comeback.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.