Manny Pacquiao is reportedly planning his return to the ring in March or April of next year. The leading candidates for the B-side slot seem to be former four-division champ Mikey Garcia and former two-division titlist Danny Garcia.
The best option for the Filipino icon, however, just might be a rematch with former welterweight world champ Keith “One Time” Thurman.
It’s not that Mikey Garcia and Danny Garcia are bad opponents. Both are clearly world-class fighters with elite-level credibility.
Mikey, for instance, has captured world titles at featherweight, super featherweight, lightweight, and junior welterweight and has long been considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Danny, meanwhile, has held world titles at junior welterweight and welterweight, claiming high-profile wins over the likes of Amir Khan, Erik Morales, Zab Judah, Paulie Malignaggi, and Lucas Matthysse.
But Mikey Garcia is coming off a dismally poor performance in his welterweight debut, dropping a one-sided unanimous decision to 147-pound champ Errol Spence. Few outside of his own team believe that he can make a big splash in his fifth weight class and, consequently, his name value is greatly diminished right now.
Danny Garcia is also on the slide to an extent, having suffered losses to Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter while going 2-2 in his last four bouts. The Philly fighter may have high-end ability, but he has yet shown himself to be capable of beating an elite-level welterweight.
Selling a fight against either Garcia would be an uphill battle and, honestly, wouldn’t deliver the reward to go along with the risk any fight at that level presents.
A rematch with Thurman, though? It would be box office gold and yet another notch on Manny’s Hall of Fame career bedpost.
From the moment the action-packed part one finished on July 20—which ended in a split decision win for Pacquiao—there was the talk of a rematch. The back-and-forth battle between welterweight elites was THAT good. And the fight was certainly close enough to warrant a guilt-free rematch. As a matter of fact, there was a case to be made (but not in this writer’s eyes) that the 10-years-younger Thurman maybe deserved the scorecard win.
And even if Thurman didn’t deserve the win, the contest was close enough to argue that he could’ve beaten Pacquiao with the slightest tweaks here and there or that, as some pointed out, Thurman’s inactivity at the time of the fight hurt him, especially early in the contest.
In beating Thurman, Pacquiao affirmed that he still belonged among the top dogs in the deep, talented welterweight division and there would naturally be some reluctance to give Thurman a second chance at taking that away from Manny.
But the Thurman rematch is, realistically, the best fight that could be made at the moment.
With the division’s top name, Spence, recovering from a car accident and no. 2 Terence Crawford fighting behind the Top Rank/ESPN wall. None of the other big names appear to be available for Manny unless Team Pacquiao wants to explore the low-reward/high-risk buzzsaw that is Shawn Porter (and they should not want to explore that option).
For his part, Thurman claims to be all in when it comes to a Pacquiao rematch.
“You know what I want. I want that rematch, baby. That’s all I really want,” Thurman told Fight Hub TV.
The Florida-based fighter even has some very clear ideas of what he aims to do if a part two materializes.
“Maybe utilize a little bit of my movement more, set up some counters…He didn’t like my boxing…Head movement…Small things that I saw that frustrate him and certain openings that I didn’t take advantage of in the moment.”
Pacquiao will be 41 by the time his next bout comes around, and only important fights should be on deck when it comes to the final battles of his career. If the goal is big, competitive fights that carry weight when it comes to adding on to his already prodigious legacy, then a Keith Thurman rematch is the way to go.