Having proven that he has lost none of his ability in the boxing ring, the next question for Floyd Mayweather Jr is where does he go next? The undefeated American showed no signs of rustiness as he returned in impressive fashion after a 21-month absence from the sport with an unanimous points victory over Juan Manual Marquez on Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Mayweather, 32, confidently said afterwards that he can raise his game to even loftier heights and that is something he will almost certainly have to do given the quality of his likely next opponents. One of either hard-punching welterweight Shane Mosley, 38, or the world's pound-for-pound best fighter, Manny Pacquiao, lie in wait. Other possibilities aside from those two include Antonia Margarito, but Mosely has already tamed the Mexican, losing some of the allure that a fight with Mayweather may have previously had.
The world wants to see a Mayweather-Pacquiao showdown, but the Filipino is fighting Puerto Rico's Miguel Cotto in November, and it could be a year before their schedules can be aligned to arrange a clash. In the meantime, Mosley - who crashed Mayweather's post-fight interview to demand his shot at him - might be the most profitable option. Crucially, for the sake of drama and spectator interest, the duo share bad blood.
Just days before facing Marquez, Mayweather told the world Mosley was "on steroids", and distanced himself from a future showdown: "Shane, your career is over. You're almost 40! Give it up Shane!" The smart money - and the bigger purse for Mayweather - awaits in the form of Pacquiao, who is tearing his way through contenders one by one. The conqueror of Ricky Hatton in March, Pacquiao is fighting in the junior welterweight class of 140lbs, meaning another catchweight bout could be in the offing.
Going back to Saturday's victory, which maintained his unbeaten record to 40 fights, a Mayweather win had been expected, but few could have predicted the one-sided, comprehensive nature in which it was achieved. Marquez did well to last 12 rounds, particularly after he was floored in the second round. "That guy is tough as nails," said Mayweather. "He was a great little big man. I threw a hell of a shot that dropped him, and then he got back up and kept fighting. He's a tough guy."
Marquez's courage ensured the bout went the distance but the step-up in two weights was always going to be a tall order for the 56-fight veteran. He had never fought above 135lbs before, and had only risen above 130lbs for three of his 56 career contests. "I don't want to make excuses but the weight was the problem," said Marquez. "He hurt me [in the second round] but not at any other time. When I hit him he laughed but I knew he felt my punches. I did the best I could do."
For the undefeated Mayweather, however, it was just another win. "I've been off for almost two years but it felt really good to be back. I was happy with the victory but I know can get better." firstname.lastname@example.org