Manny Pacquiao's Next Fight Must Be Against Ruslan Provodnikov

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Manny Pacquiao's Next Fight Must Be Against Ruslan Provodnikov
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Manny Pacquiao's career got back on track Saturday night with a victory over Timothy Bradley to reclaim the WBO welterweight title following two uninspired performances against Juan Manuel Marquez and Brandon Rios. 

Now that Pac-Man has exacted revenge, or at least got better judges, against Desert Storm, we can now turn our attention to his next fight and potential opponent.

Let's get the big fish out of the way right now. Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather is not going to happen.

Top Rank CEO Bob Arum claims to have a scheme that will make the fight happen, according to Martin Rogers of Yahoo! Sports, which basically boils down to no one buying Mayweather's fight against Marcos Maidana on May 3. 

That's what the public should do. [If the media] want that fight, tell the public not to buy pay-per-view and not to buy tickets. There is no other [strategy]. We are prepared tomorrow to sit down at a table with his people … to work out the conditions for the fight.

We know that's not going to happen, though Pacquiao might be a little more desperate for buys after his name alone wasn't enough to draw more than 500,000 buys for the Rios fight last November. 

So instead of dwelling on a fight we know isn't going to happen, let's focus on one that makes a lot of sense and has the potential to take place because both men are represented by Top Rank. The challenger I speak of is Russian Ruslan Provodnikov. 

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Provodnikov, like Pacquiao, has a loss to Bradley on his resume, though the 30-year-old Russian did score a knockdown of the now-former WBO champion in the final seconds of that March 2013 fight before getting saved by the bell. 

A Pacquiao-Provodnikov matchup can't be set right away, as Provodnikov has to defend the WBO light welterweight title against no-name challenger Chris Algieri in a bout that was announced in the build up to the Pacquiao-Bradley fight. 

Speaking through a translator to Dan Rafael of, Provodnikov sounded like a dejected fighter because the opponents he wanted weren't lining up to get in the ring with him. 

For me, the best option for my next fight, considering that Bradley is fighting Pacquiao again, it would have been Marquez. Also, Brandon Rios. I really wanted that fight [with Rios] if it wasn't going to be Marquez.

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Because of Provodnikov's growing resume, as well as the impressive showing he had against Bradley, a victory against Algieri should be proof enough for Top Rank that it's time for him to get a real fight against quality competition. 

Provodnikov will enter his next fight with a 23-2 career record (16 KOs), including a victory over Mike Alvarado last October. In another sign that boxing makes no sense, Alvarado parlayed that loss into a marquee fight with Marquez, while Provodnikov is stuck in a nothing fight. 

For Pacquiao, his options are so limited that whenever anything comes his way it has to be seriously considered. 

Right now Pac-Man is talking about a fifth fight with Marquez, according to Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times

I guess that's where the money would be for Pacquiao, since Marquez is a much bigger star than Provodnikov and there's the history of their previous four fights, but how many times can you see the same fight before the luster is gone?

Do you feel the same level of excitement going to see one movie five times? Unless it's an all-time classic like Pulp Fiction or Taxi Driver, you're not paying nearly as much attention the more you something. 

Boxing is stuck in a rut because the top fighters just keep recycling opponents. It's time for new blood to break into the mainstream. Provodnikov has earned the right to challenge a star at Pacquiao's level. 

The ball is in Pac-Man's court to do the right thing for boxing, instead of trying to chase down another payday. 

If you want to talk sports, hit me up on Twitter. 

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