By Jason Keidel

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The boxing cognoscenti is scratching its head over Floyd Mayweather’s choice for his next opponent. 

Andre Berto, a once-promising prospect who won his first 27 fights (22 by knockout), brought power and peril to his foes, and was exactly what you wanted from a fighter. He hit hard, and often, and also got hit. He wasn’t aesthetically pristine, but he was perfect for a sport on life support.

Oddly enough, his first loss was to Victor Ortiz, who was well known for fighting – you guessed it – Floyd Mayweather Jr. Ortiz stormed into the ring again Mayweather and seemed more than ready in every physical sense. Metaphysically, another matter, as Ortiz shockingly and inexplicably used his head as a battering ram, launching into Mayweather’s chin, like a linebacker blasting a quarterback. Both instances warranted, and got, a penalty flag. 

After Ortiz was warned and punished, he kept reaching out to Floyd for a handshake, to make ephemeral amends in the middle of the ring. Floyd tapped a glove and was ready to rumble. Ortiz, either blinded or ashamed by his rage, wasn’t ready, and approached Mayweather with his hands dangling by his hips. Floyd famously dropped him with a lead right, and Ortiz hasn’t been the same. 

After losing to Ortiz, Berto’s next loss was to Robert “Ghost” Guerrero, who also fought Floyd Mayweather Jr, and lost, of course. In fact, Berto has lost half of his last six fights, which has ringside scribes baffled. 

But before we dissect Mayweather’s next opponent any further, which we’ll have plenty of time to do here over the coming days and weeks, let’s muse over his prior opponent.

Manny Pacquiao – the tornadic, Filipino fighter who lost the epic May 2 bout – believes he should be Floyd’s hurdle to his 50th win, despite being the disappointing doormat to his 48th win. 

Well, so says Pac Man’s father figure, consiglieri, and corner man, Freddy Roach. The renowned trainer may have physical woes that thwart his speech, but he can still boast with the best of them.

Roach recently asserted that his fighter beat the pound-for-pound icon. And while we who know boxing respect both parties, we also know that didn’t happen.  

Finally, and for the record, Floyd Mayweather Jr schooled Pacquiao in LasVegas. It wasn’t a draw, or close to a draw. Maybe Manny wasn’t in any danger, but he wasn’t in any danger of winning, either. Few folks were more hardwired into the bout than yours truly. I covered it for nearly three months for CBSSports.com, interviewed dozens of boxing lifers, from refs to reporters to retired fighters, did the live fight blog for CBS, and applied the postmortems. 

This reporter scored it 8 rounds to 4. Some pundits saw an even wider chasm. But you won’t find one pundit worth his salt who says Manny beat Mayweather. That’s because he didn’t. 

Roach’s gaseous declarations, along with the perceived excuses tossed around during Pacquiao’s post-fight presser, has left a foul taste in Mayweather’s mouth. Rightfully so. More than most athletes, boxers adhere to the old sports maxim that if you’re injured you don’t fight, and if you fight you’re not injured. 

Maybe Mayweather didn’t have a torn shoulder, but he, like all boxers in their late-30s, has an amalgam of maladies. His hands are a mess – a bunch of gnarled knuckles, broken bones, and speed bumps of scar tissue. And for all his warts, Mayweather would not have used his mashed hands as an excuse had he lost to Pacquiao. 

Pacquiao allegedly tore his rotator cuff weeks before the bout. but there was no mention of it publicly, in the press, or on his pre-fight medical report. If it wasn’t an issue then, it’s not an issue now. It’s bad form, and it runs counter to the boxer’s noble, old-world ethos.

Sure, post-fight posturing is as old as the sport. No doubt Roach and promoter Bob Arum used Manny’s malady as a seed, an implicit invitation to a rematch. Assuming Mayweather defeats Andre Berto – a pretty safe assumption – and the pyramids of cash that would make Tony Montana blush are too alluring, then it’s easy to envision a bonfire of Twitter handles (#MayPac2?) and endless promotion leading to a Manny-Mayweather redux. 

Few folks think Mayweather is really retiring on September 13. Why are we so certain? Because no one else in boxing history has ever retired undefeated while still housing the bulk of his brilliance. There’s too much cash and cachet still on the table for Floyd to just disappear into the Las Vegas cacti. 

Mayweather seemingly thinks so little of Berto that he barely left himself a month to train for the fight. The welterweight king keeps himself in impeccable shape, shares none of the fighter’s post-fight enmity for fitness, but it’s standard for a boxer of Mayweather’s renown to leave himself two months to prepare, especially at his tender age.

For his part, Pacquiao has flashed some stones by vowing to fight Danny Garcia as a tune-up for the biblical showdown with Mayweather next year. Not only can we not assume Pacquiao will pummel Garcia, he may not even be favored in the fight. Garcia is in that dubious boxing position where he’s not yet a star but way too dangerous for a tune-up. His wrecking-ball destruction of Amir Khan is proof-positive of his nuclear arsenal. 

If Floyd does go for 50-0 post-Berto and Pac Man beats Garcia, then he’s earned a second fight with Mayweather. As long as he admits he lost the first one. 

Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden.

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