After the anger subsided and fans kind of, sort of relaxed, the most pressing question on the minds of everyone who watched Timothy Bradley defeat Manny Pacquiao last month became: what happens next?
Obviously certain parties -- beginning with the WBO and ending with Pacquiao himself -- seemed to want a rematch of June 9’s catastrophe, but those precious few were just that, a precious few. The fans, analysts and casual observers who saw Pacquiao pummel Bradley for most of their bout, only to somehow emerge from the ring with loss on his record, didn’t need a part deux.
After all, once you see a fighter out-punch the other guy for 10 out of 12 rounds, land more hits on a higher percentage, and connect on a greater total of power punches -- regardless of whether the incompetent judges deem that to be enough for victory or not -- you sort of know who the better boxer is. You really don’t need a sequel, no matter how hard the powers that be try to sell you one.
So, given all that, we return back to the original question: what happens next?
What will happen next and what should happen next are two very different things. What will happen next, most likely, is that we’ll see Pacquiao hand Bradley another beating on Nov. 10. That’s what will happen next. What should happen next, however, is this:
Pacquiao should fight Juan Manuel Marquez, and Bradley should fight Amir Khan.
We won’t sit here and argue the merits of a Pacquiao-Bradley IV showdown because, at this point, everyone knows them. Marquez has consistently tested the Filipino champion unlike anyone else in the sport. Marquez knows how to put on a show and be competitive. The history alone makes this a bout worth having. And so on and so forth. The list of pros is endless.
The more intriguing portion of our proposition, however, is Bradley-Marquez.
You’ll recall, not too long ago, Bradley’s clear-cut, blatant ducking of Khan was something of a major story. For all the talk about Floyd Mayweather Jr. ducking Pacquiao, at least Mayweather sort of had a good reason for behaving the way he did. Bradley had zero excuse for his cowardice.
But then Bradley went and signed with Top Rank, which was basically like a magic elixir that erased all his past misdeeds. As soon as he put his name on the dotted line, Arum instantly hyped him up, made everyone believe that he was a top-tier contender, and then put him on the fast-track to facing one of the top two pound-for-pound fighters in the world today.
Meanwhile, Khan continued to do what he always did – fight well, keep his mouth shut (more or less) and handle business. Granted, along the way he earned a loss to Lamont Peterson; however, given Peterson eventually testing positive for doping, it’s probably safe to forgive that brief lapse.
About a week or so before Pacquiao-Bradley went down, Khan offered these comments to the Telegraph:
“I would love to fight Bradley at 147, if he somehow manages to come through," said Khan. "I don’t think he’s going to beat Manny, but it’s a fight that we put to him [Bradley] before when he was at light-welterweight and he turned it down twice.”
And therein lies the solution to everyone’s problems. Bradley earned a win that nobody felt as though he deserved on June 9th. Because nobody felt as though he deserved that win, nobody feels as though he deserves a rematch.
Instead of fighting Pacquiao again, he should fight Khan – the guy he’s been ducking forever. If he beats Khan, that victory will legitimize Bradley and prove that he deserves a second shot at Pacquiao. If he loses – well, then, he loses. Either way, though, it’s the perfect potential bout, and one that fans would actually want to see.
Does a Pacquiao-Marquez IV/Bradley-Khan lineup over the next year make a ton of sense? Yup. Will it happen? Probably not.
Why? Because it makes too much sense, of course.