It wasn't quite the utter annihilation Freddie Roach predicted, but Manny Pacquiao returned to form impressively last night (Sat., Nov. 23, 2013), dominating and busting up Brandon Rios for a wide unanimous decision win at The Venetian in Macau, China.
Pacquiao might not be the destroyer he was from 2008 to 2009 when he wiped out the likes of Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto, but he is still an elite fighter capable of giving any Welterweight boxer one hell of a fight.
The issue is that the Top Rank-promoted standout is short on welterweight competition. Effectively the entirety of the Junior Welterweight and Welterweight elite are part of the Golden Boy stable (or at least working exclusively with Showtime). In other words, that means future bouts against Adrien Broner, Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse and Devon Alexander are, at the moment, out of the question.
Looking down the short list, there are exactly three fighters near the top of the heap who would be quality opponents for "Pac Man:" Ruslan Provodnikov, Juan Manuel Marquez and Tim Bradley. The former is one of Pacquiao's training partners (and friends) and Marquez is more than likely forever content with how their fourth fight ended.
That means a rematch against Bradley is pretty much the only viable option.
If Bradley is up for it, it would be a quality scrap. He has beaten Provodnikov and Marquez since the debacle with Pacquiao and still possesses elite technical skill. It's just a question of whether all parties involved want the rematch since Freddie Roach seemed disinterested and the result of the first fight kept Bradley in career limbo for nine months.
Plus, Marquez is clamoring for a rematch of his own with Bradley, which could complicate matters for Pacquiao.
Meanwhile, Rios faces the same problem. Marquez would be an interesting fight, as all fights that involve Marquez and an aggressive fighter turn out. Unfortunately, Marquez is focused entirely on fighting Bradley, who himself is way above Rios in the rankings.
That effectively just leaves Provodnikov, who would put on a terrific scrap with Rios, but might be hesitant about fighting someone on an losing skid (0-2) who recently lost to the guy he destroyed (Mike Alvarado). Still, it's probably the best and most likely fight.
As with all boxing matters, only time -- and money -- will tell the tale.
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