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Boxing Roundtable: What's next for Pacquiao, Margarito and Haye?

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CHRIS MANNIX: I like what I heard from Bob Arum after the fight, that he (or more specifically, his associate, Todd DuBoef) would call Mayweather this week and gauge his interest in fighting Pacquiao sometime next year. After talking with HBO execs, I believe they will do everything in their power to facilitate this fight happening. But Mayweather's legal problems are a wild card. We don't know if or when he will have to go to trial and we don't know the how impact of four felony charges -- and not being able to see two of his kids -- is weighing on him. The effort will be made, but I'm skeptical Mayweather will be Pacquiao's next fight.

RICHARD O'BRIEN: Not so long ago I assumed that a Pacquiao-Mayweather bout was inevitable -- that whatever drug-testing or purse-splitting issues arose, the Himalayan pile of cash at stake would simply pull the two fighters into the ring with a force as inexorable as gravity. Now I'm not so sure. Mayweather's legal troubles could keep him out of action for a while. In the meantime, Pacquiao has shown that he can sell big even against lesser opponents. Add in the fact that Manny's political responsibilities have to be taking at least some of his attention, as well as Freddie Roach's determination to protect his fighter's health -- plus Mayweather's age (33) and relative inactivity (would you want to get in with Pacquiao after, say, a year's layoff?) -- and you can see that the window for this fight is closing. I hope we see it soon; I'm skeptical that we'll see it at all.

BRYAN ARMEN GRAHAM: Twelve months ago, the conditions for Pacquiao-Mayweather were ideal. Now it seems a number of variables need to break right for the fight to have a chance of coming off. Bottom line: Mayweather can't fight from behind bars. And he won't fight (at least not against Pacquiao) without his trainer and uncle Roger Mayweather, who's up on felony charges himself. (Both have January court dates.)

Why should we believe the megafight is going to happen after slipping from a silver platter into a snake pit? Two reasons. The first is money. The richest fight in history could mean a $40 million payday for both men. The other, as Max Kellerman put forth in an op-ed at the end of Saturday's HBO telecast, can be referenced as the Leonard-Hagler theory. Kellerman suggested that Mayweather was waiting until Pacquiao was past his peak, not unlike Sugar Ray Leonard's putting off the Marvin Hagler fight for years. (Hagler suffered his first defeat in more than a decade on a controversial decision when they finally met in 1987 ... and never fought again.)

Pacquiao is expected to fight in May and November of next year. My gut instinct says one of those fights will be against Shane Mosley and the other against someone not named Floyd. I'm not giving up hope completely on Pacquiao-Mayweather; I'm just not going to spend the next year hand-wringing over it.

2. Where does Pacquiao now rank among the greatest southpaws of all time?

MANNIX: Bert Sugar said recently that he thought Pacquiao was the best southpaw of all time, and it's hard to argue. There's some elite talent on that list -- Marvin Hagler and Pernell Whitaker, to name a couple -- but Pacquiao's speed and power, coupled with his unprecedented rise through the weight classes, gives him the edge on my card.

O'BRIEN: The Greatest Southpaw of All Time list is not one I spend a lot of time thinking about, unlike, say, the Greatest Heavyweights, or the Greatest Fights of All Time, or the Greatest John Candy Movie. But, off the top of my head, I'd have to say Manny ranks close to the top. Actually, with his mastery of angles, his speed and work rate and his use of power combinations far more than the jab, Pacquiao is kind of Southpaw 2.0, far beyond the more traditional Winky Wright-pesky-jabbing-awkward-opponent model. Any list of great left-handers will include such pioneers (from eras in which southpaws were far less common and far less accepted by matchmakers than they are today) as Lew Tendler, the great Philly lightweight of the 'teens and '20s, and middlweight champ Tiger Flowers. But, really, Manny's closest rivals among the top portsiders (how's that for sportswriterese?) would be Pernell Whitaker and Marvin Hagler.

Whitaker, of course, was the anti-Manny, eschewing every chance to mix it up and sacrificing power to insure his astounding defensive control (hence his mere 17 KOs in 40 victories). By contrast, Hagler and Pacquiao are kindred spirits, both tremendous offensive forces and natural warriors. I rank Hagler at the top of the lefties, but Manny's looking pretty marvelous too.

GRAHAM: Boxing's traditional southpaw-orthodox dichotomy forces Pacquiao to be classified as one or the other, but in reality he's more of a switch-hitter. He fights out of a southpaw stance and relies heavily on a left hook that's become one of the sport's most fearsome weapons, but he performs many day-to-day tasks (like writing) with his right. Bob Arum rates Pacquiao ahead of Muhammad Ali because, he says, Manny is ambidextrous. (That's why Pacquiao-Mayweather will never happen, Arum told me in May, because it nullifies Floyd's most trusted defensive strategem: the shoulder roll.) I don't know if Pacquiao has surpassed Hagler and Whitaker yet -- and let's not omit featherweight legend Freddie Miller from the discussion -- but the Filipino is gaining rapidly. Today I'd rate him no worse than No. 3.

3. Where does Antonio Margarito go from here?

MANNIX: There are two ways to look at this. No. 1, despite the beating, I thought Margarito actually fought well considering he was up against a human buzz saw. The shots he landed on Pacquiao might have stopped other fighters and the abuse he took proves he can still take a punch. There will be challengers for Margarito, most notably Shane Mosley, who listed Margarito as a possible opponent after the fight.

But should he keep fighting? Freddie Roach told me that he would be surprised if Margarito ever fought again. Beatings like that are hard to get over and we don't know the extent of the damage, beyond the broken cheekbone. Margarito should think long and hard about whether he wants to continue after that.

O'BRIEN: I hope Margarito goes home and into safe retirement. He took a frightening beating from Pacquiao, the kind that echoes down the years. I was dismayed, by the way, by the callousness of Margarito's corner. Pacquiao showed far more concern for his well-being.

GRAHAM: The general public never really warmed up to Pacquiao-Margarito. Insiders were mostly aghast that Margarito was gifted such a lucrative opportunity on the heels of the hand-wrap scandal. To casual sports fans, the Mexican was simply A.B.F. -- Anyone But Floyd. Margarito was already the bad guy for getting a $3 million guarantee (in a recession!) after getting caught with loaded gloves. (In reality, he simply had the good fortune of being Pacquiao's Top Rank stablemate.) But for someone who seemed genuinely earnest about rehabbing his reputation, Margarito outdid himself during the build-up to the fight. He joked about the hand-wrap incident on HBO's 24/7 reality series. He became a comically repulsive villain during fight week after a video of Margarito's making fun of Roach's Parkinson's Disease went viral. Even less than an hour before the fight, it was reported he'd taken the stimulant Ephedrine, which prompted an uproar between the camps that briefly threatened to scrap the bout.

Then the bell rang and Margarito showed unforgettable heart and courage, boosting his chances for another major payday in 2011. But I thought it could have been stopped in the ninth and should have been stopped in the 10th. In the end, Margarito's corner let him down. We may never know exactly when the orbital fracture happened, but it's obvious trainer Robert Garcia (and referee Laurence Cole) allowed Margarito to endure punishment and disfigurement in a fight the Mexican had no chance of winning. Nearly 10 minutes of unnecessary punishment from the world's best offensive fighter may have proved career-ending. If Garcia is truly one of boxing's up-and-coming trainers as advertised, then Saturday's late-round debacle emphasized the coming. Next time, I'm guessing he'll protect the fighter and not his pride.

4. WBA heavyweight champion David Haye destroyed Audley Harrison in three rounds Saturday in England. Afterward, Haye "guaranteed" he'd fight the Klitschko brothers in 2011 to unify the titles. Do you believe him?

MANNIX: I believe absolutely nothing David Haye says. The Klitschkos have presented him with deal after deal -- some very favorable for Haye -- and he has continued to turn them down. He's making loads of money fighting clowns like Harrison and doing it at very little risk to himself. He'll "negotiate" again with the Klitschkos, but my guess is we see Haye against his mandatory, Ruslan Chagaev, early next year.

O'BRIEN: After his demolition of Harrison, Haye stands, more than ever, as the only compelling opponent for either Klitschko not also named Klitschko. Haye has flirted with both before, but always (through excessive caution or just a cagey sense that it would be better to wait) pulled out. But now the time may be right for a commitment. Vitali is 39, Wlad's 34 and Haye says he's retiring soon. Haye against either is certainly an event boxing could use in 2011. I expect a Haye fight to get made with one of the brothers in '11.

GRAHAM: I may have overstated my case over the weekend on Twitter when I said Haye vs. either Klitschko should be second on every fight fan's wish list for 2011 after Pacquiao-Mayweather. But it's certainly on the short list, along with Juan Manuel Lopez-Yuriorkis Gamboa and the handful of attractive matchups at 140 and 168.

For those living under the presumption that heavyweight is still boxing's bellwether division, either of the Haye-Klitschko fights is vitally important to the sport. It's been more than a decade since the recognized titles were unified, and the lack of a singular identifiable heavyweight champion has done immeasurable damage. Haye is just the sort of headline-grabbing figure the division needs. He's worn the severed heads of the Klitschko brothers on a T-shirt, told writers he'd beat up Jean-Marc Mormeck "like Rodney King" before a cruiserweight unification bout, and infamously billed Saturday's fight with Harrison as a "public execution" to be "as one-sided as a gang rape by a pack of silverback gorillas." (And he was right.) Americans will love Haye or they'll hate him, but they won't ignore him. Unless it becomes clear he's received a correspondence degree from the Mayweather Institute of Artful Dodgery.

Memo to Haye: Take the mandatory against Chagaev if you'd like one last guaranteed windfall -- Rock Newman made sure Riddick Bowe fought Michael Dokes and Jesse Fergusion before putting him back in against Evander Holyfield -- but don't turn the page from 2011 without fighting Wladimir or Vitali. You'll regret it.

5. Does Rafael Marquez deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?

MANNIX: This is a tough one and one I have debated a lot over the last week. No question, Marquez is an exciting fighter and his four fights with Israel Vazquez -- especially the first three -- were legendary. He has won titles at bantamweight and super bantamweight and is fearless in the ring. But he lost two of those fights with Vazquez and his résumé isn't exactly loaded with top talent. He's got my vote when the time comes, but I get the feeling it will take a couple of ballots to get him in.

O'BRIEN: I'd be on the fence here. Marquez held titles at bantamweight and superbantam; he has a record of 39-6, with 35 KOs and wins over the likes of Mark Johnson, Tim Austin, Silence Mabuza and, of course, Israel Vazquez. But he also lost to Vazquez twice (in an admittedly Hall-worth rivalry), and five of his six losses were by KO. He has been a superbly schooled fighter and a consummate warrior. He is a cut above most of his contemporaries. I'm not sure that makes him worthy of Canastota, though.

GRAHAM: Marquez is a first-ballot inductee to the Hall of Very Good. But like baseball's Bert Blyleven and football's Ray Guy, the two-division champ seems destined for a fringe candidacy to be debated tirelessly in barrooms and cantinas on both sides of the border. As a witness to so many of the Mexican's unforgettable ring wars -- particularly the Vazquez quadrilogy -- I'm inclined to cast a vote for him when the time comes. If you broke down the balloting by demographic, I suspect he'd have enough support from the younger voters. I just don't think there's quite enough on the résumé to impress veteran observers.