Timothy Bradley's Next Fight: Ranking the Best Potential Opponents

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistApril 13, 2014

Timothy Bradley's Next Fight: Ranking the Best Potential Opponents

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    Eric Jamison

    Timothy Bradley Jr. came up short in his quest to score a decisive victory over Manny Pacquiao on Saturday night, but even in defeat, he proved that he's one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.

    Coming back from a loss is sometimes a tricky thing in boxing, made all the more so when it's your first professional defeat, but "Desert Storm" is a fierce competitor, and he should bounce back with little problem. 

    Here, we rank the best possible opponents for his comeback fight, why he should choose them, why he shouldn't choose them and whether or not they have a realistic chance of securing the fight.

    These are the best possible options for Timothy Bradley's next fight.

5. Brandon Rios

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    Nicky Loh/Getty Images

    Why It Should Happen 

    Brandon Rios is a highly recognizable name that would provide credibility and a managed amount of risk for a comeback fight after a loss. He's exciting and brings a ton of guts and determination into a fight, characteristics that make him compelling.

    But he's also limited. A good boxer, committed to keeping the fight where he wants it, shouldn't have tons of trouble blunting his offense and dancing pugilistic circles around him. 

     

    Why It Shouldn't Happen

    Rios was fed to Pacquiao last November under similar circumstances. A well-known fighter, coming off a loss, he badly needed a credible opponent to make him look good and jump-start his career. 

    "Bam Bam" proved to be every bit of that and more. He looked overmatched against Pacquiao, and he was shredded with quick, powerful punches from all angles. By the end of the night, his face was bloody and swollen, the result of swallowing big punches for 36 minutes. 

    It was one of his worst performances as a pro, and it proved that he's probably already hit his ceiling as an exciting, but limited, fighter who will never be elite.

     

    Will It Happen

    Possibly.

    Rios has some work of his own to take care of first. He was long rumored to be on the short list for a challenge against Ruslan Provodnikov in the spring, but that fight fell through. Instead, per Boxing Scene, it appears that the former 140-pound belt-holder could face fellow former champion Antonio DeMarco over the summer.

    If he wins, he definitely gets into line as one of the better options for a comeback fight for all the reasons listed above.

    Bradley spent much of the promotional time for his rematch with Pacquiao criticizing the Filipino icon for allowing Rios to stand in front of him all night without stopping him.

    It would be interesting to see how Bradley, who nearly had his block knocked off by Provodnikov when he tried to engage, would fare against the opponent he so frequently criticized Pacquiao for not knocking out.

4. Mike Alvarado

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    Why It Should Happen 

    Mike Alvarado is a former 140-pound champion, and he's likely to be the man grasping the short end of the stick when he faces the Mexican-legend Marquez on May 17 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. 

    He's a dangerous and a potentially compelling comeback opponent for Bradley. You could even go so far as to call this fight the loser's bracket. Or, if you want to make it sound better, how about the consolation round? The winner of Pacquiao vs. Bradley 2 was slated to face the winner of Marquez vs. Alvarado, so why not have the losers fight as well?

    After all, what's better than two fighters, coming off a loss, desperate to get back into the win column?

     

    Why It Shouldn't Happen 

    Alvarado, of course, still has a shot of being the one to advance to a shot at Pacquiao and the WBO Welterweight Championship. It would be something of a pretty significant upset if he were to get by Marquez, but anything is possible in boxing. 

    For Alvarado, it all comes down to how he loses—which we expect he will—to Marquez. If he gets blasted out of the ring, it's a definite possibility this fight goes down the drain. But if he gives a good account and drops a close fight, his stock could rise.

     

    Will It Happen

    This one is a definite possibility.

    Alvarado is a solid, but not elite, fighter. He has the goods to give Marquez some trouble, but he comes up just short of winning the fight. So long as he does that, and isn't totally outclassed, he remains both viable and credible. 

    A comeback fight of sorts for both fighters being necessary, he makes a lot of sense as an opponent for Bradley's return to the ring.

3. Juan Manuel Marquez

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    Why It Should Happen 

    Juan Manuel Marquez, even as he closes in on his 41st birthday, is still a top-10 pound-for-pound fighter. He fought Bradley last October—his protestations of robbery to the contrary, "Desert Storm" won a deserved decision—and gave a good showing in defeat. 

    The Mexican legend is a credible and exciting opponent for just about anyone. Bradley has always said that he doesn't care about wins and losses, just fighting the best fighters in the world. This would be pretty significant proof of that, taking a fight with Marquez off a loss to Pacquiao.

     

    Why It Shouldn't Happen 

    Even with the official scorecards indicating a close fight, Bradley didn't have a huge amount of trouble staying within himself and outboxing Marquez the first time around.

    By the time a rematch would take place, the Mexican warrior would be 41 years old, and there's not a ton to indicate that—short of him landing a home run shot—the result would be much different.

     

    Will It Happen 

    While compelling, it seems rather unlikely. That's not because it doesn't make sense and not because people wouldn't want to see it. But, simply put, Marquez will be trying to fry himself a bigger fish in the fall.

    Marquez is likely to defeat Alvarado when the two meet in May, and with a victory in that fight, he'll move on to face Pacquiao for a fifth time, with the WBO Welterweight Championship on the line.

2. Ruslan Provodnikov

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Why It Should Happen 

    Why shouldn't it happen? 

    Bradley got healthy—ironic to put it this way, given the serious concussion he suffered during the fight—by defeating Ruslan Provodnikov last March. It was the capper of an absolutely awful nine months for the former WBO welterweight champion, who struggled, both personally and professionally, in the wake of his highly controversial split decision over Pacquiao.

    "Desert Storm" won himself a ton of fans by showing guts, heart and determination, coming out of his comfort zone and standing toe-to-toe with the lethal Russian power puncher. From a stylistic, and physical health for that matter, standpoint, it certainly wasn't his best fight, but it helped erase much of the lingering doubt from the Pacquiao affair.

     

    Why It Shouldn't Happen

    Provodnikov nearly took Bradley's head off in their first fight. He's the definition of a hugely risky comeback opponent, and Team Bradley might not feel the need to take this sort of risk coming off their first defeat.

     

    Will It Happen

    We can certainly hope, can't we?

    This is a risky, but potentially very exciting fight for Bradley, and Provodnikov certainly deserves a second bite at the apple. 

    Provodnikov served his purpose last March. Bradley was a champion, but many viewed his reign as tainted by the circumstances under which he took the belt. He needed a fight to regain some credibility with the mainstream fans, and that's what he got and then some.

    Few expected the "Siberian Rocky," who at that point wasn't very well-known, to provide not only a challenge but also to nearly steal the show. 

    Provodnikov went down in defeat that night, but he gave Bradley hell, showing an almost freakish intensity and nearly stealing the show. This rematch is something that would definitely sell to the fans, and that's what it's all about.

1. Manny Pacquiao

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    Eric Jamison

    Why It Should Happen 

    If you don't want to see a third fight after Saturday night's action, you better check your pulse. The fighters have not split their two previous meetings—regardless of your feelings on the ultimate outcome of the first bout—and the rematch was exciting, dramatic and brought out the best in both men.

    Pacquiao may hold two wins, at least in the eyes of the public—if not the record books—but you can easily make the case for a third fight. 

    Unlike last time, it's definitely marketable, and the fans would like to see it.

     

    Why It Shouldn't Happen 

    One of the main selling points is also a negative. Most, if not all, fans will now feel that Pacquiao has scored two wins over Bradley, and there's no need to force a third contest. That's a pretty compelling argument, even if the official records don't support it.

     

    Will It Happen 

    You can bet the farm.

    Pacquiao may not be Bradley's next fight—expect "Pac-Man" to face Marquez in the fall—but he'll definitely get his rematch, barring something completely unexpected happening. 

    Bradley may well have lost the first fight, he definitely lost Saturday night, but he wasn't blown out of the ring in either affair. He more than held his own in the second installment of this matchup, and the demand for a rubber match is definitely there and will only grow.