The ring return of Manny Pacquiao could be finalized as soon as this week, and the expectation is that he'll make his New York debut on an April 14 pay-per-view card at Madison Square Garden.
Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum said the plan for his first ESPN pay-per-view card is to also stage a World Boxing Organization welterweight title defense by champion Jeff Horn against unbeaten former four-belt junior-welterweight champion Terence Crawford.
"We're going over contracts with four guys that we handle, and everything's coming along nicely," Arum said.
The 39-year-old Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 knockouts) hasn't fought since July 2, when he was upset by Horn in a disputed decision in Australia.
Serving as a Philippines senator, Pacquiao has an open window in his political duties this spring to train and fight, and the front-runner to become his April 14 opponent is Mike Alvarado (38-4, 26 KOs), a 37-year-old former junior welterweight title challenger.
Alvarado's best days are beyond him and there should be deserved scoffing at the light assignment for Pacquiao. The better choice would've been newly belted World Boxing Assn. secondary welterweight champion Lucas Matthysse.
But Arum hasn't contacted Matthysse's promoter, Golden Boy. And although Golden Boy President Eric Gomez said "money can move mountains," Matthysse suffered a slight cut in his Jan. 27 title victory at the Forum, and he would need to return to his Indio gym by next week to emerge over Alvarado, who has won four consecutive bouts over lesser foes.
Looking at the bout through a matchmaker's eyes, Alvarado is a fighter who could allow Pacquiao to score his first knockout victory since 2009 and produce more enthusiasm for a possible showdown later this year against the favored Crawford, who is ranked No. 1 in The Times' pound-for-pound ratings.
Arum said he was expecting to speak to Pacquiao manager Michael Koncz later Monday to continue talks for the bout.Koncz declined to identify "a front-runner or back-runner" to fight Pacquiao, but told The Times Monday that he hoped to finalize the deal by this week.
Additionally, Arum said he is conversing with World Boxing Assn. lightweight champion Jorge Linares' Japanese promoter for a possible May date against Arum's super-featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko.
Golden Boy's Gomez said Arum needs to reach out to him to finalize the deal since "we're the promoter for Linares here in the U.S.