Friday January 6th, 2012

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum will travel to the Philippines next week, where he will present pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao with a list of four possible opponents for him to choose from for his next fight: Juan Manuel Marquez, Timothy Bradley, Miguel Cotto and Lamont Peterson. Whomever Pacquiao chooses, the fight will probably generate 1 million pay per view buys and north of $50 million in revenue. But who should[ital] it be? Let's break down the pros and cons of the candidates:

Credentials: WBO, WBA Lightweight champion. No. 5 on SI.com's Pound for Pound list.

Pros: Um, did you see the first three fights? Pacquiao and Marquez are tailor made for each other. Over 36 relentlessly fought rounds only one -- Pacquiao's three knockdown opening round in the first fight -- was clear-cut. Marquez's footwork and ring savvy give Pacquiao fits, while Pacquiao's power advantage makes Marquez a target for a knockdown at any time. Last November's meeting was fought in front of a sold-out crowd and likely generated between 1.4 and 1.5 million pay per view buys, leaving no reason to believe a fourth fight on, say, Cinco de Mayo weekend in a Mexican friendly venue (Cowboys Stadium?) wouldn't do just as well.

Cons: Some variety in Pacquiao's life would be nice. There's no question Pacquiao and Marquez have unfinished business, but it's business that could be settled down the road. Marquez says he isn't interested in any big fights besides Pacquiao, so there's little danger he would lose and take the shine off another fight. Besides, there's a good chance negotiations could get tricky: Marquez probably wants at least a $10 million guarantee while Pacquiao reportedly is looking for a $28 million guarantee.

Credentials: WBA Junior Middleweight champion. No. 12 on SI.com's Pound for Pound list.

Pros: Another rematch worth watching. Pacquiao and Cotto engaged in an old-fashioned backyard brawl when they met in 2009, a fight that, at the time, elevated Pacquiao to true superstar level. A rematch will likely have to be at a catchweight -- Cotto has fought at junior middleweight in his last three fights -- but Pacquiao is believed to be O.K. with that, given that he has fought at junior middleweight before (against Antonio Margarito) and because the 5-foot-7 Cotto is not a particularly big 154-pounder. Cotto has looked sharp since working with Emanuel Steward and, most recently, Pedro Luis Diaz, who have corrected many of his problems. Pushing Cotto would solve one of Arum's biggest problems, too: Cotto is a promotional free agent and has not indicated if or for how long he will re-sign with Top Rank.

Cons: As entertaining as the first fight was, it wasn't all that competitive. Pacquiao led by at least eight points on all three judges scorecards before the fight was stopped in the 12th round. Cotto landed some good shots -- just ask Floyd Mayweather Sr., who was visibly shaken in the press room after that fight and swore his son would never fight Pacquiao after watching him absorb bomb after bomb from Cotto -- but Pacquiao controlled the action and never seemed to be in trouble. Cotto's competition since that fight -- Yuri Foreman and over-the-hill Ricardo Mayorga and Antonio Margarito -- offer no indication that a rematch would be closer.

Credentials: WBO Junior Welterweight champion. No. 8 on SI.com's Pound for Pound list.

Pros: Bradley takes a lot of heat for his ugly, headfirst style ... but it's effective. He has quality wins over Junior Witter (in the U.K., Witter's backyard) Kendall Holt and Devon Alexander and a one-sided whipping of Peterson, who edged Amir Khan last month. He's an unbeaten, 140-pound titleholder who can talk a good game and whose back story has not been touched by the HBO 24/7 cameras.

Cons: The style. It's boring. Even when Bradley doesn't swing his head like a hammer he still doesn't have a crowd-pleasing approach. He presents a pretty hittable target for Pacquiao and has a questionable chin that makes you wonder if he can hold up in the face of Pacquiao's power. At best, it's an action fight that ends inside five rounds. At worst, it's an ugly, grappling 12-round decision that leaves everyone unsatisfied.

Credentials: IBF, WBA Junior Welterweight champion

Pros: Peterson has earned it. He has had an uneven two years, losing (badly) to Bradley, battling Victor Ortiz to a draw, knocking out Victor Cayo. But Peterson reached the mountaintop last month when he beat Khan. He has never ducked anyone (unlike Bradley) and epitomizes what coming up the hard way really means. Consider his back story: Peterson and his brother, junior welterweight contender Anthony Peterson grew up homeless, living on the streets of Washington D.C. before their trainer, Barry Hunter, took them in. Talk about a made for 24/7 story.

Cons: Peterson probably isn't on Pacquiao's level yet. He beat Khan, but he got help from a horrific referee who deducted two points from Khan for shoving. Winning a rematch with either Khan or Bradley would probably pump up Peterson's credentials.

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