Floyd Mayweather's unanimous decision win over Manny Pacquiao on Saturday night wasn't exactly unexpected, but it did confirm something: there's nobody better in the game, not today and not in this generation. So what's next for the 38-year-old pound-for-pound king?
Mayweather was asked about that at the post-fight press conference. All he would say is that he indeed intends to return in September for what is the final fight on his record contract with CBS Sports and Showtime. Mayweather also said he's lost some love for the sport of boxing, and the fighter has been talking legitimate retirement in the build-up to the Pacquiao bout, with his tune not changing after it was over. Other than saying the fight would be in September, Mayweather asked if he could simply enjoy his latest victory before getting into the subject of his next fight.
Mayweather, of course, has "retired" before. What he now terms "a little vacation" came in 2008 when he announced a retirement instead of fighting a rematch with Oscar De La Hoya. He returned to action in September 2009. Boxing is one of those things where the athletes almost always stick around too long, but there are some exceptions. Rocky Marciano retired in 1955 at age 32 with a record of 49-0, the mark that Mayweather would meet with a win in September. More recently, Joe Calzaghe retired in 2008 at age 36, running up a career record of 46-0.
So what's next, or last, for Floyd Mayweather? It's really a wide open race.
One fighter who has been chasing the bout for the last couple of years is Amir Khan, the talented British-Pakistani star who has lightning quick hands who believes he could give Mayweather problems. But Khan (30-3, 19 KO) can't fight in September, as it falls too close to the end of Ramadan for him to get comfortably ready to fight, and certainly at this level. Khan's last chance to land the Mayweather fight may have been for May this year, but with Pacquiao taking that spot, he may have entirely missed the boat.
The only other man who holds a recognized welterweight world title is Kell Brook (34-0, 23 KO), another British fighter and a press rival of Khan's. While Brook and his team at Matchroom Boxing would obviously love to get that opportunity, it's highly unlikely. For one thing, unifying all four title belts is clearly not on Mayweather's mind, as he announced at the post-fight press conference that he is planning to relinquish the three titles he holds at welterweight and the two he holds at junior middleweight, and that his last fight won't be for a championship. (Mayweather says he wants to give younger fighters a chance, subtly saying that nobody's going to beat him so he might as well just give up the belts.)
Unbeaten American welterweight Keith Thurman (25-0, 21 KO) may be the next big star in the division, and shares adviser Al Haymon with Mayweather. Thurman, 26, is a good puncher, he's in his prime, and he's a guy who could attract some real attention if given the opportunity to speak in front of a wider audience. He knows how to promote and self-promote.
There are also fighters at 140 pounds who could come up. Lucas Matthysse (37-3, 34 KO) recently scored an exciting win over Ruslan Provodnikov, and said after that fight that he wanted the Mayewather-Pacquiao winner. Danny Garcia (30-0, 17 KO), who beat Matthysse in 2013 on the Mayweather-Canelo undercard, is also a potential candidate, but Garcia has lost a little luster in his recent performances, a pair of controversial wins over Mauricio Herrera and Lamont Peterson, plus an embarrassing mismatch against Rod Salka.
If we can't look down, then how about up? Canelo Alvarez (44-1-1, 31 KO) fights again this coming Saturday, facing dangerous puncher James Kirkland. But Alvarez has a contract that is just getting started with HBO Sports, and there is absolutely no reason to expect HBO and Showtime to want to work together again after the Mayweather-Pacquiao experience. Besides, Alvarez is poised to take over as the top drawing card in U.S. boxing if he keeps winning and Mayweather and Pacquiao retire.
One interesting idea that also has a huge roadblock is Miguel Cotto (39-4, 32 KO), which would be another Mayweather rematch. Cotto gave Mayweather a pretty good fight back in 2012, and has looked sharp training under Freddie Roach in his last two bouts. He won the lineal middleweight championship last year, and will defend on June 6 against Daniel Geale.
The block here comes in the form of Cotto's new promoters at Roc Nation Sports, which is run in part by Jay Z. Jay Z and wife Beyoncé don't get along with Al Haymon, the power adviser behind Mayweather's career. Bob Arum, Pacquiao's promoter, also doesn't get along with Haymon, but this is an older issue. While a Mayweather-Cotto rematch could be interesting, and would give Floyd a chance to win another lineal championship, it appears as though Mayweather has achieved as much record book padding as he cares to, and he's not a fighter who is interested in doing anything crazy like fight at too heavy of a weight and risk getting hurt. (Gennady Golovkin, largely considered the true top middleweight in boxing today, is not in the mix for that reason, along with Golovkin's HBO contract).
Speaking of guys who are just too big and unlikely, crazy old Bernard Hopkins said about a year ago he'd love to make a catchweight fight with Mayweather. The two shoo-in Hall of Famers meeting would be bizarre -- Hopkins started his career at 160 and has been fighting at 175 for the last decade. Mayweather fights at 147. For Hopkins to try and drain a bunch of weight to make, say, a 160-pound limit at age 50 would be shocking and possibly dangerous. This is not a real possibility, but don't be surprised if Hopkins brings it up again this week.
As for a rematch with Manny Pacquiao, don't count on it. The fight simply wasn't competitive enough to really warrant a second go, and Pacquiao reportedly has a shoulder tear that could require surgery and a potential nine months on the shelf.
So it's really a wide open race right now. There are a lot of guys who could potentially face Mayweather, but there's no obvious choice. It would perhaps be Amir Khan, but not if the fight is set for September. If we're making a guess right now, Keith Thurman may be the leading candidate. He's called for the fight, says he has the plan and the tools to beat Mayweather and there just might not be anyone else out there who can or will take the fight.