Marquee opponents lining up for Cotto

Miguel Cotto awaits his next fight

Miguel Cotto awaits his next fight

Every once in awhile, Manny Pacquiao would lean over to Top Rank boss Bob Arum and whisper something, perhaps giving the promoter a blow-by-blow analysis of Miguel Cotto’s welterweight title defense against Joshua Clottey.

Then again, the pound-for-pound king might have been describing how he’d handle Cotto himself.

The pride of Puerto Rico bruised his way to a split decision over Clottey on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, with Pacquiao seated just a few feet from the ring. Cotto’s bloody win might set up a big-money fight between them this fall, although there will be others lining up for a chance at one of the most exciting fighters in the game.

“The people have to wait until I rest a little bit,” Cotto said after the fight, a deep gash over his left eye heavily bandaged. “I’m on vacation.”

Cotto was evasive in discussing the myriad of potential opponents lined up before him, leaving that task to Arum, who made it clear that Pacquiao is at the head of the pack.

“This fight showed me that Cotto and Pacquiao is a dead-even fight,” Arum told a group of reporters seated ringside. “I think it’s a very competitive fight. Cotto-Pacquiao is the fight I want to make. It’s the fight I really want to make.”

Then, again, there are other options for Cotto.

The WBO titleholder could face WBA champ Shane Mosley in a rematch of their 2007 bout, or he could fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. A bout with Mayweather might take longer, after he postponed his fight next month with Juan Manuel Marquez because of a rib injury while training.

“Mayweather won’t fight anybody who can beat him,” Arum said, quickly dismissing a Cotto matchup. “Psychologically, he cannot take a defeat.”

The leaves one other serious contender for Cotto’s next fight: Antonio Margarito, who dealt Cotto his only loss.

The former champion from Mexico brutally beat Cotto when they fought last year, but a few months later, Margarito was found to have a substance that resembled plaster-of-Paris on his hand wraps before a subsequent loss to Mosley. That made some question whether his win over Cotto was tainted.

Margarito and his trainer Javier Capetillo had their boxing licenses revoked by the California State Athletic Commission.

Arum called a potential rematch with Margarito, whom he also promotes, “a huge fight.”

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