Manny Pacquaio's victory over Timothy Bradley Saturday night in Las Vegas does much more than simply tell fans who the better fighter was that night.
It tells us that Bradley is not who we thought he was, and that the days of dreaming for a Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight are dead for good.
Let's begin with Bradley, who through four rounds had the look of the better fighter. He pressed Pacquiao, staggered him multiple times and kept the violence coming in a way that would have surely resulted in a win if he had kept his foot on the pedal.
But Bradley quickly faded, or at least opted for a strange strategy that cost him the fight. He was like a kid pretending to be Muhammad Ali, taunting with his gloves, putting his hands down and horribly failing to avoid punishment.
It's a rude awakening for Bradley and his faithful. He's not the best in the sport. He's not even worthy of stepping in the ring with Floyd Mayweather.
Who should Bradley fight next?
Let's be clear—a rubber match between Bradley and Pacquiao is the best-case scenario for the American. But he robbed himself of that and will instead have to settle for less. That could mean a fight with Danny Garcia. Perhaps a rematch with Ruslan Provodnikov. But nothing bigger, as boxing's biggest villain needed a win Saturday as a prerequisite for greater things.
In fact, a rematch with Provodnikov is easily Bradley's best bet, especially with Pacquiao moving on to other things.
Forget the "dream match." Pacquiao won Saturday, but it's apparent he's a shell of his former self in the speed department. Bradley's approach actually made Pacquiao's life easier, which was a telling sign for all future opponents with whom he steps in the ring.
Simply put, Mayweather would manhandle Pacquiao. Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated put it best:
Nice win for Pacquiao. But this version of him can't beat Floyd Mayweather. Just can't.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 13, 2014
Look, the whole point of a rematch with Bradley, other than to make copious amounts of coin, was to redeem Pacquiao's legacy and keep his career alive.
Outside of the financial side of things, that's the exact opposite of what would happen if he steps in the ring with Mayweather, regardless of how violently promoter Bob Arum wants to beat his chest about a rematch:
Arum says he is ready "anytime" to negotiate a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) April 13, 2014
Instead, Pacquiao's best shot at a high-selling fight he can win is a fifth bout with bitter rival Juan Manuel Marquez, the man who knocked him out in their fourth fight. Mannix writes that it's far and away the most likely bout for Pac Man:
Yup, it’s coming. If Marquez gets past Mike Alvarado next month, Top Rank is ready, willing and able to make a fifth fight between two of boxing’s biggest rivals. Now that Pacquiao has a belt, Marquez will be eager to get in the ring with him; he has made it a priority to become the first Mexican fighter to win titles in five different weight classes. And for those who think Pacquiao-Marquez V is overkill: Each of their first four fights were close, were entertaining and were huge hits at the box office, and in the case of the last three, on pay per view. It would be foolish for Top Rank not to pursue it.
It doesn't get any better than that for a deteriorating Pacquiao. Wins over the last two men to manage victories over him is the best way to likely close out a legendary career. He's certainly on board with the idea:
Pacquiao on a fifth fight with Marquez: "I have no problem with that."— SPIN.ph (@spinph) April 13, 2014
He shouldn't. On a downward trend, Pacquiao has to make fights that won't tarnish his career while he racks up more wins and financial gains. The same can be said for the younger Bradley, who has to rebuild his brand just as Pacquiao did after their first fight.
As they always do, things have come full circle.