The boxing world doesn't wait.
Even before Manny Pacquiao scored unanimous decision defeat against Brandon "Bam Bam Rios" on Saturday in Macau, China, many were asking about Pac-Man's next fight in 2014.
Once the dust settled, there was no doubt that Pacquiao was the better fighter. Dan Rafael of ESPN.com shared the lopsided judges' scores from Saturday's bout:
With such a big win, Pacquiao remains among the world's elite boxers and still figures to be a big draw on pay-per-view television. While a mega bout with Floyd Mayweather may be the ideal matchup of the sport's two biggest names, there are many factors, mainly money and TV contract driven, that will make Pacquiao-Mayweather a hard deal to put together.
But there are still other top fighters out there who make sense for Pacquiao's next bout, with American Timothy Bradley atop the list.
Shortly after Pacquiao's recent victory, his respected trainer Freddie Roach acknowledged Bradley would be a good stepping stone leading up to a possible date with Mayweather. Ryan Songalia of Ring Magazine relayed comments from Roach about Pacquiao's future opponents:
Bradley is out there. I think Bradley is someone that we have to avenge that loss, even though he won that fight so easily. Mayweather is the number one guy we want, but whoever (promoter) Bob (Arum) can bring to the table to bring to the ring with us, I'll be happy with.
Arum, Chief Executive Officer of Top Rank, Pacquiao's promotion company, has already announced that Pacquiao will fight again on April 12, so retirement is clearly off the table for the 34-year-old future Hall of Famer.
A rematch with Bradley would be good for both fighters at this point of their respective careers. These two met in June 2012 with Bradley claiming a controversial split-decision victory:
Bradley has since scored a unanimous decision win against Ruslan Provodnikov and a split decision against Juan Manuel Marquez to run his record to 31-0 and retain the WBO Welterweight title.
Who Will Pacquiao Fight Next?
He would be a formidable foe for Pacquiao, who would again be at the crossroads of his career. While this matchup didn't create a big pay-per-view buzz like Pacquiao's other fights, the drama surrounding their last bout could help drive viewership and provide a significant payday for both fighters.
A loss to Bradley would be devastating to Pacquiao's career at this point and probably put a Mayweather bout on the shelf forever, but he's about to turn 35 and needs to take some risks. Pacquiao doesn't have many big bouts left, and Bradley provides the most realistic option when you consider the money factors, competition levels and visibility.
Bradley doesn't come close to having the same sway as Mayweather, but Pacquiao's celebrity and legacy would be enough to make this a worthwhile fight for boxing.