1. Juan Manuel Marquez
Outside of the defeat to Erik Morales, the only other blemish on Pacquiao’s recent resume is his 2004 draw to Marquez. The fight is hardly something to chastise Pacquiao for, given that he scored three first-round knockdowns and only lost because of an admitted scoring error by one judge. Nonetheless, the result was a draw, and Pacquiao must avenge that result, and prove that he has improved and that the result was in fact a fluke. Marquez, 47-3-1, 35 KO’s, is the WBC Champ, and is currently recognized as the second-best 130-pounder in the world, which was firmly established after he defeated Barrera last month. Marquez is also just two notches south of Pacquiao in The Ring’s pound-for-pound rankings, making Marquez one of the best fighters in the world. A fight with Marquez offers Pacman an opportunity to claim the WBC Super Featherweight Belt; ironically, Pacquaio, the best super featherweight in the world, is currently beltless.
On top of the significance of the fight, it would doubtlessly be as much of a thriller as their first fight. A fight with Marquez would give Pacquiao a chance to complete the Barrera-Morales-Marquez trifecta and establish complete dominance of all his elite super feather contemporaries. Unfortunately, this fight may have to wait, as Marquez and Barrera appear primed for a late summer rematch.
2. Marco Antonio Barrera
Marco Antonio Barrera is doubtlessly the top super featherweight of his generation and Pacquiao obliterated Barrera when they last fought in 2003. Pacquaio has since gained four years of experience and reached his prime, while Barrera is now four years of boxing beyond his prime. However, Barrera, 63-5, 42 KO’s, is a fighter one can never underestimate. The future Hall of Famer Barrera wants a chance at redemption, and should be offered an opportunity. Barrera is currently the third-ranked super featherweight in the world, and is therefore the proper opponent to rank second on a Pacman hit list. A Pacquiao-Barrera fight would be a monster draw, as both fighters have massive name recognition and a strong contingent of followers from their homelands. Though few fans would pick Barrera to win, everyone would agree Barrera deserves a chance to avenge the most one-sided loss of his career.
3. Edwin Valero
Many fans view Edwin Valero as a wildcard in the super featherweight division to take out Pacquiao. Valero opened his career with 17 consecutive first-round knockouts, and is currently undefeated in 21 professional fights, winning each by knockout. Like Pacquiao, Valero seems to have more power than his small frame should be able to generate. Valero has been forced to fight outside the U.S. because of a blood clot in his brain, and as a result the level of his competition and his publicity has suffered. Valero’s most significant fight to date was against Vicente Mosquera for the WBA Belt, and they turned in a 10-round slugfest which resulted in a 10th round technical knockout for Valero. Though his publicity has been hurt, the suspense for a televised Valero fight has been building for a while now. Fans are dying to see Valero on a televised stage and against a more formidable opponent. Though Valero might need some more seasoning, the WBA Champ would be a very compelling opponent for Pacquiao.
4. Joel Casamayor
Pacquaio has a knack for making possibly the best division in boxing look thin. Despite the wealth of exciting and talented fighters at 130 pounds, very few can even conceivably step into the ring with Pacquiao and make a competitive fight. Therefore, the logical step would be for Pacquiao to move up in weight and take on bigger, stronger opponents. Although the lightweight division is not the most compelling division in the sport since the departure of Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales, Joel Casamayor, 34-3-1, 21 KO’s, is currently considered the man to beat in the lightweight division. Pacquiao does not have the natural size suited for a move up in weight, but his power and speed follow him. It would be a significant career accomplishment for Pacquiao to establish himself at the top of another weight class, and it would open the door for many more potential fights.
5. Joan Guzman
Joan Guzman is the current WBO Super Featherweight Belt-holder. Guzman, 27-0, 17 KO’s, is a tough, undefeated fighter. Guzman does not have the lure or status of a Barrera or Marquez, but he is a legitimate title holder and is no push-over. Guzman offers Pacquiao a shot at a desired belt, and a fight that fans can get behind. Like Valero, Guzman has yet to have a shot at an elite fighter, so it is difficult to grade Guzman’s actual chance to win. However, he is an undefeated fighter with a belt in Pacquiao’s division. There is a certain sense, in the honor of complete annihilation of the rest of the division, Pacquiao should get rid of that Guzman.