Much like his first three fights with Juan Manuel Marquez, we were dissatisfied with the result of Manny Pacquiao's June 2012 WBO title match against Timothy Bradley.
In stunning fashion, the judges awarded a split-decision victory to Desert Storm, rocking the boxing community and giving the welterweight title to a man that has not been in the ring since. Pacman's fallout has been rough, too, after a knockout loss to Marquez in December put his career in doubt and his legacy on the line.
A rematch between these two men provides a road to redemption for both that will help provide insight to the kind of fighter each really is.
We all know about the public relations nightmare that Top Rank top dog Bob Arum is dealing with right now with Pacman. He's lost his last two fights (albeit it controversially against Bradley), is dealing with overwhelming political pressure in the Philippines and is having to try to determine a next opponent in the process.
That's led to plenty of speculation about his next matchup, and names from Marquez, Brandon Rios and Bradley have all been thrown out when match-making what could be a September card for the Filipino legend.
Why not kill two birds with one stone?
Pacquiao can erase the doubters from the Bradley decision by taking a second fight with the current title holder, assuming Bradley takes care of business against Ruslan Provodnikov on Saturday in California. Next, he could face Marquez at least one more time before deciding on trying to make a fight with Floyd Mayweather one last time before hanging up his gloves for good.
As Arum said to BoxingScene.com on Tuesday, there's a number of matches that can be made with the current outlook, and this weekend should provide some more insight to which opponent Pacquiao will draw next:
Well, first [Timothy Bradley] has to beat [Ruslan] Provodnikov. If he beats Provodnikov and Rios beats Alvarado and then we’ll see what Manny [Pacquiao] and [Juan Manuel] Marquez will do. So I got four guys and we’ll mix and match. If Marquez and Manny decide to fight this year, then I’ll try to make Rios and Bradley. If Manny and Marquez won’t fight this year, one of them can fight Bradley and the other can fight Rios. So we got a lot of options there
While the potential gain for Pacquiao's career is certainly weighing heavily on any decision, the weight of the world is on Timothy Bradley—and he's in a no-win situation against Provodnikov on Saturday night.
As noted by this tweet from USA Today's Jonny Saraceno, it's been a tough layoff for a man that should be reaping the spoils of what is the biggest win of his professional career:
Instead, death threats are flying in, fans don't respect the decision and feel he had something to do with cheating the system for a win. To make matters worse, he hasn't fought since that fateful night in June, and public opinion continues to spiral downward, as noted by Chris Mannix of SI.com.
Instead of getting treated like the champ by Top Rank or Arum, Bradley has to face Provodnikov, a man who is moving up the weight ladder, in front of a less-than-normal crowd in Carson, Calif.—not Las Vegas or the MGM Grand Arena.
If you took a double-take there, I don't blame you. Not only are the fans pestering Bradley for what seems like an unfair share of responsibility for how the judges scored the card, he's fighting a no-name move-up who he's expected to wipe the floor with outside of boxing's premier state (Nevada).
If he wins, great, but that won't stop the hate from coming in. If he loses—and Lord forbid Bradley blow this thing open now—then the haters will really start to show up in droves and spout off about how this man was ever allowed to beat Manny Pacquiao.
Like I said—no-win situation.
It makes for a poetic return to a fight that solved little in our minds and left only a big question mark after last June's showdown between these two fighters.
Did Bradley win the fight? That's up to your representation of how boxing should be scored. It was clear that Pacman had control of the card early on, landing big jabs and forcing Bradley into retreat mode. But Pacquiao did seem to take his foot off the gas in the later rounds (particularly 8-10) and didn't finish a fight that could have been over in the sixth or the seventh.
Which opponent should Pacquiao seek next?
That ended up costing him in the minds of the judges, and puts us in a position to revisit a fight between two opponents that were supposed to have different outcomes during the first meeting.
So we'll wait to discover the winner of Bradley and Provodnikov, and see what the next move Arum and Top Rank make with respect to a man they consider a champion. The money will be in the potential Marquez-Pacquiao V bout—no doubt about it.
But the respect and pride for two fighters who both lost in June 2012 will also be an option for Arum, and it's a decision he should make without blinking to ensure that these two fighters get the closure that they both deserve going forward.