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Marquez next for Manny?

Juan Manuel Marquez

MANILA, Philippines – Although boxing coach Freddie Roach isn’t taking WBO welterweight champion Jessie Vargas lightly, he’s now wondering who could be next to fight Manny Pacquiao after the 12-round title bout at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas this weekend (Sunday morning, Manila time).

According to Roach, Pacquiao has two more fights in his contract with Top Rank before it expires. First in line is Vargas then it’s anybody’s guess. After two outings, Pacquiao becomes a free agent and could negotiate a swan song for the ages – a farewell fight where he wouldn’t need to pay a third-party promoter or middleman. As a free agent, Pacquiao could arrange with his opponent a sharing formula where they split the lion’s share of the fight proceeds. That farewell bout could be the much-awaited rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

A fighter whom Roach struck out from the list of future opponents is WBC/WBO superlightweight champion Terence Crawford. “Right now, Crawford strikes me like a young Mayweather,” said Roach. “It’ll be a difficult fight for Manny. Crawford is at the point in his career where he’s like how Manny was when he was knocking out guys like (Marco Antonio) Barrera and (Erik) Morales. I wouldn’t want it for Manny, not at this stage in his life.”

Crawford, 29, is set to stake his WBC/WBO belts against John Molina Jr. in Omaha on Dec. 10. Last July, he decked Roach’s protégé Viktor Postol twice en route to scoring a lopsided decision at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. In that fight, Roach saw up close the weapons in Crawford’s arsenal and not even a skilled boxer in Postol could blunt his edge. Crawford’s record is 29-0, with 20 KOs so it’s clear that he’s no slouch.

Writer Michael Rosenthal of The Ring Magazine said Crawford would likely be favored in a fight against Pacquiao “based on his speed and all-around ability” but he ruled out a mismatch. “Pacquiao still has the ability to push anyone not named Floyd Mayweather Jr.,” said Rosenthal. “Pacquiao-Crawford probably wouldn’t generate significantly higher pay-per-view numbers than Pacquiao-Vargas so why go that direction if economics is your prime motivation? The risk of fighting Crawford would be too great given the reward.”

Roach said an intriguing option would be for Pacquiao to face Juan Manuel Marquez after Vargas. Marquez, 43, hasn’t fought since outpointing Mike Alvarado in Inglewood, California, in May 2014 but he’s back in training for what he calls a “retirement” fight. “I have the desire to do a retirement fight,” Marquez was quoted. “If the body responds well, we’re going to make a comeback.”

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Last month, Marquez returned to the gym after a layoff of over two years. He’s working out six to eight hours a day with notorious strength and conditioning coach Memo Heredia in Mexico City. It was Heredia who bulked up Marquez for his fourth meeting with Pacquiao four years ago. Marquez survived a knockdown to stop Pacquiao with a single punch in the sixth round. According to Marquez, he will train up to December then decide whether or not to fight one last time next year.

If Pacquiao and Marquez square off again, it will be their fifth encounter. They battled to a split draw in their first meeting in 2004 then Pacquiao won by a split decision in 2008 and by a majority verdict in 2011 before Marquez scored the knockout in 2012. Roach said even if Marquez is now 43, he remains a dangerous fighter.

“I’ve read that Marquez wants a retirement fight where he could make a lot of money to put away,” said Roach. “That would be a tough fight for Manny but why not? It’ll be payback time for Manny, too.”

Roach said if ever a fifth fight with Marquez pushes through, he’d like VADA (Voluntary Anti-Doping Association) to conduct the drug testing. He said he respects VADA president Dr. Margaret Goodman highly. To this day, Roach said he’s amazed at how Marquez was able to muster the strength to knock out Pacquiao when the Mexican, bloodied and battered, was on the verge of collapse. Marquez was primed for the bout by Heredia.

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