Bunce on Boxing: Khan in a big game of matchmaking poker

Martinez is not big on games and told Mayweather: "Fight or shut up"

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The Independent Online

It seems that six or more quality fighters have issued deadlines this week to each other in perhaps the biggest game of matchmaking poker that I have seen since the heyday of the Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield chaos from 1993 to 1996.

Amir Khan has given his nemesis Lamont Peterson a few days to agree terms for another fight after the WBA, one of the sanctioning bodies involved in their fight, granted Khan a rematch. The pair met in December; it was a tight fight and Khan lost a disputed but far from outrageous decision. The aftermath went ballistic when tireless sleuthing revealed a mystery man in a hat at ringside being a nuisance, but not in any way interfering with the final scores.

Peterson will risk being stripped of his WBA belt if he walks away from a Khan rematch, and a guarantee of just under a million dollars, for a fight against a brilliant Mexican called Juan Manuel Marquez. A fight is in the works between the two at the stadium in Arlington, Texas, where the Dallas Cowboys play. Peterson will make more from the Marquez fight but it would be a move that reflects badly on Khan, who needs to get revenge to halt the endless accusations that he is a bad loser.

However, Peterson remains on a shortlist for a fight against Manny Pacquiao, the sport's No 2 cash cow, at the Thomas and Mack Centre in Las Vegas on 9 June. Bob Arum, Pacquiao's promoter, needs to make a decision soon; he also has Marquez on his list and the promoter is, apparently, still not giving up on a showdown between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jnr, the sport's biggest earner.

There is also the unbeaten light-welterweight world champion Tim Bradley to consider in the mix. He beat Peterson in 2009 in what was a virtual shut-out fight but was clearly reluctant last year to agree terms with Khan. Bradley's name has been on or near many Pacquiao and Mayweather lists. He could also offer Khan a route back if Peterson goes elsewhere.

Mayweather is at the very core of all debates and double bluffs in boxing at the moment and has been for about five years; he has been the most lucrative boxer since he started fighting only once each year after enormous money fights against Ricky Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya in Las Vegas in 2007. His fights perform brilliantly at the box office and the less often he appears, the higher the demand, even with a 90-day prison sentence hanging over him and due to start on 1 June.

His proposed fight with Pacquiao will reward him with as much as $50m (£32m) but he is not prepared to split the purse 50-50 with Pacquiao, which is the latest impasse in a now weary tale of greed and bad manners surrounding this fight.

There is an outside chance that an old-fashioned warrior called Miguel Angel Cotto could be the man chosen by Mayweather and perhaps even Pacquiao. Cotto, fresh from a stunning and redemptive night in New York against Antonio Margarito last month, is discussing terms with his team and will make a decision this week. Another deadline looms.

And into the realm of bold and trash-talking multimillionaires strolls Sergio Martinez, a real fighter, the best middleweight in the world, who recently told the WBC to shove its gaudy belt of increasingly meaningless recognition where the sun never shines. Martinez suddenly heard his good name being used in vain when Mayweather talked about him as an opponent. Martinez is not big on games and sent a message to little Floyd: "Fight or shut up." If only all fighters were that honest.