Franchise Thoughts: Floyd Mayweather Returning... But to Face Who?

Now that everyone is reporting the least surprising news in boxing - namely, that Floyd Mayweather Jr. is looking to end his retirement as soon as this July - it's time to give some more serious consideration to who Money might be fighting when he returns.

For the sake of argument, I'm assuming that Mayweather is going to be fighting a serious opponent right out of the gate even though the ESPN story raises the specter of a tune-up fight. As a fan, I sure wouldn't support the idea of a tune-up, because, let's face it, he wouldn't need one if he wouldn't have voluntarily taken the last 15 months off.

Without straining myself too hard, here's a short list of people Floyd could reasonably face before the year is out:

Juan Manuel Marquez

Why It Could Happen: JMM's stock has never been higher, and he's already made it abundantly clear he wants to fight Mayweather. Even though he went to war with Juan Diaz, he could reasonably be ready to go by July 11. His age and relatively small size might make him seem like a ripe target for Floyd.

Why It Might Not Happen: Despite his undeniable skills, Marquez doesn't have name recognition outside of hardcore boxing fans and may not seem like a marquee attraction who can sell tickets and/or pay-per-view buys. JMM also has yet to fight above 135, so he arguably adds the least to the Mayweather legacy with a Floyd win and detracts the most with a loss.

Manny Pacquiao

Why It Could Happen: Assuming Manny gets by Ricky Hatton, this is the biggest fight that could be made in the sport - exactly the kind of thing that should get an undefeated champion to come out of retirement. Pacquiao is thought of by many as the current pound-for-pound king but has fought most of his career at lower divisions than Mayweather, so the risk/reward ratio seems right.

Why It Might Not Happen: Team Pacquiao is unpredictable, to say the least, when it comes to negotiations, so financial issues could always be a factor. And Manny could lose to Hatton, which would torpedo this idea pretty quickly. There's also no way this would take place on July 11 - think fourth quarter 2009.

Ricky Hatton

Why It Could Happen: No doubt Mayweather would love it if Hatton wins on May 2 after handling him fairly easily the first time they met. The Hitman brings plenty of loyal fans to the party and has made enough strides over the past year and a half that he'd look like a more credible threat in a rematch, at least on paper.

Why It Might Not Happen: Put simply, I think Hatton is going to lose to Pacquiao, robbing this match-up of any potential luster. Again, it would have to be scheduled for the fall and not mid-summer.

Shane Mosley

Why It Could Happen: Sugar Shane is riding a wave of momentum after stopping Antonio Margarito and would certainly be up for fighting Mayweather. He's obviously still in possession of most of his skills, but it's not hard to see Floyd looking at his age and thinking he would be easy pickings.

Why It Might Not Happen: Mosley has never been a huge draw but has occasionally lost sight of that fact himself. Wrangling over the purse split looms as a potential hurdle.

Andre Berto

Why It Could Happen: Berto may not be ready for this kind of challenge at this stage of his career, but it's hard to see him turning a Mayweather fight down if one was offered. His status as WBC welterweight champion would allow Floyd to sell the idea (probably successfully) that it would not be a tune-up fight.

Why It Might Not Happen: With even less name recognition than Marquez and less pound-for-pound support than all the men listed above, it could be that Berto simply isn't on the radar for the Mayweather camp. Since Andre is young and potentially still improving, he's also more an unknown quantity than the 30-and-over crowd, and that's something that Floyd never seems to like.

Oscar De La Hoya

Why It Could Happen: It may have the slimmest of chances, but if you aren't cynical enough to think it could happen, then you're probably new to the sport. Welcome. The Golden Boy is certainly capable of duping... um, I mean, convincing people he just wasn't himself when he stunk up the joint against Pacquiao, and we'd hear about the narrow split decision from his first fight with Mayweather ad nauseum to reinforce that line of thinking.

Why It Might Not Happen: If there is indeed a benevolent higher power, He simply won't allow it.

Looking over this short list, I think Mosley would be the leader in the clubhouse if Mayweather and company are married to the July date, with the Pacquiao-Hatton winner even more likely if Floyd is willing to take a lesser fight first and wait until the fall for a huge one.

Posted by The Franchise

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