By Jerome Foster
Pound-for-pound and pay-per-view king Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. returns to the ring in September. As of this writing, his opponent has not been announced, leaving fans to wonder who Mayweather will fight.
Mayweather fights generate big business and interest in boxing. Because of this, the boxing industry and fans talk extensively about who his next opponent should be. The question of who Mayweather should fight next usually breaks down into two questions: who would one choose to fight if they were Mayweather and who should the public want Mayweather to fight?
Those questions usually have two different answers. If I am thinking like Mayweather, I want the easiest fight that will bring the most money. If I am thinking like a fan, I want the fight that will generate the most action and intrigue. Let’s look at both scenarios.
If I am thinking like Mayweather, the fight that I make is easy: Miguel Cotto. The Puerto Rican star is a fighter that brings several things to the table. First and foremost, Cotto has a loyal following. Cotto brings in fans that will buy the fight on pay-per-view. More PPV buys ultimately means more money in Mayweather’s bank account. Cotto is also on a roll. Since losing to Austin Trout via unanimous decision in December 2012, Cotto has looked impressive beating Delvin Rodriguez, Sergio Martinez, and Daniel Geale. These wins can be used to sell the fight and get casual fans interested. A Cotto fight could also add another title to Mayweather’s collection. When Cotto defeated Martinez last June, he took the lineal middleweight title. Defeating Cotto for that title would make Mayweather a six-division champion. And just to give Mayweather more incentive to choose Cotto, he could win the middleweight title without actually beating a middleweight. Cotto readily admits he’s not a true middleweight. His best weight at this point is junior middleweight. Cotto would also bring familiarity to a Mayweather bout. Cotto lost a May 2012 fight by unanimous decision to Mayweather.
Cotto is currently expected to fight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez next but nothing is signed between the two fighters. Boxing is a sport where you follow the money. And if Mayweather, the biggest draw in the sport, expresses he wants to fight Cotto again, there is no doubt in my mind that Cotto would sign to fight him.
If I switch my thinking to a fan’s perspective, there is one fighter I want to see Mayweather square off against: Gennady Golovkin. The hard-hitting middleweight brings his own attributes to a Mayweather fight. Golovkin is a star on the rise. His fan-friendly style makes for fun fights to watch. In his 33 fights, Golovkin has won 30 by knockout. Golovkin’s style also meshes perfectly with Mayweather’s. It would be fun to see Golovkin using his pressure offense seeking a knockout as Mayweather tries to keep him at bay with fast, accurate counter-punching. And while Cotto is the middleweight champion, it is Golovkin who is seen as the best middleweight in the world. So while Mayweather wouldn’t win a title by beating Golovkin, he would be seen as beating the better opponent.
Unfortunately, there’s no way Mayweather signs to fight Golovkin. Golovkin is just too dangerous for Mayweather at this point. While Golovkin’s stock is rising, his fan base isn’t big enough to get enough pay-per-view buys to land a Mayweather bout. There are other guys Mayweather can fight that will bring him more money with less chance of losing. Mayweather has certainly been a great fighter in his career but he has also been just as good at picking his opponents.
It’s been rumored that Amir “King” Khan will be the winner of the Mayweather sweepstakes. Khan has been in the running for a Mayweather fight for a couple of years now. Khan is a fighter with a solid British fan base. There’s no doubt British fans will support him in a Mayweather fight. That will help sell the fight and put more money in Mayweather’s pocket. And while Khan is a good fighter, he doesn’t have a good chin. Two of his three losses have come via knockout, the last being by Danny Garcia in July 2012. While this loss was three years ago, Khan now protects his questionable chin by clinching and holding when opponents get close to him. Khan’s chin could make a Mayweather fight more exciting than usual.
The question of who Mayweather should fight depends on your stance. If you are Mayweather, you want the guy with a big fan base that you should beat: Cotto. If you are a fan, you want the most intriguing fight: Golovkin. It looks as if we are going to have to settle for something in-between. One thing is for certain, with September quickly approaching, we should know Mayweather’s opponent soon.