Let's officially call it a rematch tour for Manny Pacquiao, who kicked off the first leg of it on Saturday night, with a win over Timothy Bradley in their highly anticipated do-over after the debacle that was the first fight.
Juan Manuel Marquez is next.
Pacquiao was his usual self in Las Vegas against Bradley, if not a bit slower than normal, routinely connecting on counters. While he looked a bit disheveled in the early goings of a Bradley onslaught, Pacquiao remained steady throughout the fight en route to the easy decision.
Always humble and soft spoken, Pacquiao took the career-defining victory in stride, per Isaac Estrada:
"Good fight. He gave me a good fight. I listen to my corner, hands up, timing." Pacquiao— Isaac Estrada (@RealBoxingNews) April 13, 2014
Two judges ruled the fight 116-112, while one was even further in his corner at 118-110. CompuBox crunched the complicated numbers:
ESPN's Brian Campbell aptly summarized the 12 rounds:
I thought Pacquiao put forth a pretty consistent effort from start to finish. Never overextended himself in pursuit. Good power.— Brian Campbell (@BCampbellESPN) April 13, 2014
So what's next?
Not a rematch with Bradley. The American looked strange halfway through the fight, opting for a big-swing approach while playing up to the crowd and taunting Pacquiao, but nobody in their right mind thinks this rivalry deserves another 12 rounds.
Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix concurs:
No need for a rubber match with Bradley, either. This fight wasn't bad but most think Pacquiao won both comfortably. This rivalry is done.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 13, 2014
Instead, Pacquiao needs to ink another contract to fight Marquez, the man who infamously knocked him out after his initial loss to Bradley. It's one of the sport's best rivalries, and another bout would make it five times the two have clashed in the squared circle.
For his part, Marquez just has to get past Mike Alvarado:
And get ready: If Juan Manuel Marquez beats Mike Alvarado next month, it's Pacquiao-Marquez 5 in the fall.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 13, 2014
The fight makes too much sense. Pacquiao continues to prove he is as strong as ever by defeating those who vanquished him last time around.
Really, the goal of any fight at this point is twofold—make Pacquiao look good on the tail end of his career and make as much cash as possible. Pacquiao remains a major draw, so his quest for vengeance against Marquez would do much bigger numbers than any other fight he could book at the moment.
Well, except for one...but that won't be happening.
The back-and-forth between promoter Bob Arum, Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather's camp continued immediately after Saturday's match:
Arum: "The only people who can make Floyd fight Manny is the public…by boycotting the fight on May 3rd." This is an epic Arum rant.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 13, 2014
Look, it's just not happening. Remember the prerequisites from above? Pacquiao-Mayweather would easily bring in the most money of any fight in history, but neither fighter can guarantee himself it'll result in his legacy remaining intact.
No, the smart move for Pacquiao is with Marquez once more. It would finally put down his longtime rival and close that chapter of his career. It would also invalidate the lucky knockout just as he did Saturday night with the controversial decision.
Then, things can go from there. The sky is the limit at this point, but it has to start with Pacquiao correcting past transgressions.