With Floyd Mayweather Jr. seemingly contended in taking cheap shots and Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez likely to demand mucho dinero for another showdown, Manny Pacquiao’s choice for his next opponent in April has been narrowed down to just two fighters, to wit: Russian Ruslan Provodnikov and American Timothy Bradley Jr.
Provodnikov and Bradley both make the grade in the light of the unavailability of Mayweather and Marquez, but if Pacquiao plays his cards right Bradley should be the pick for the Filipino’s next fight.
Between Provodnikov and Bradley, it is Bradley who makes for the safer opponent. Bradley, 31-0 with 12 knockouts, won a paper decision over Pacquiao in June 2012 for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title (147 pounds). To this day, it is only Bradley and the members of his household who believe that the American defeated Pacquiao on points. Wanting to prove that he can rumble, Bradley came out with both guns blazing against Provodnikov in March 2013. The end-result? Bradley nearly got knocked out in the final round and barely escaped with a decision win. True enough, in his next ring outing in October 2013, Bradley was back to his hit-and-run style in hammering out a 12-round split decision win over Marquez.
Bradley’s decision to go back to his old, safety-first approach came about after he developed a concussion during his brawl with Provodnikov. With dubious punching power, Bradley’s strength is really his boxing skills. Then again, Bradley reverting to his old style actually favors Pacquiao as this could only mean that the “Pacman” will be facing a petrified adversary. A tempered Pacquiao still outgunned Bradley during their first meeting. In the rematch, Pacquiao just has to pick up the pace a little bit to ensure a conclusive ending.
In stark contrast, Pacquiao will be taking more risks if he picks Provodnikov. Dubbed the “Siberian Rocky,” WBO junior welterweight champion Provodnikov (23-2, 16 knockouts) offers a wide and aggressive upper body that can force Pacquiao into the ropes. The Russian also packs power in both fists and knows how to work the head and body. While it may be argued that Provodnikov’s defense is porous, the guy appears to have a chin made of steel.
“I gave it everything I had [against Provodnikov],” Bradley confessed to Boxingscene.com. “He’s more powerful than Pacquiao. He hits harder and has shorter punches. He’s a great puncher, and I take my hat off him.”
More importantly, Provodnikov knows Pacquiao’s style in and out, having been the latter’s sparring partner. No less than trainer Freddie Roach once admitted that Provodnikov made Pacquiao sweat during their skirmishes in the gym. Unlike Bradley who will only look to outbox Pacquiao, Provodnikov will be looking to decapitate the “Pacman” should they end up rubbing mitts. At this stage in his career, Pacquiao is not in a position to risk another knockout defeat. The guess is that Top Rank Promotions head honcho Bob Arum knows this and will opt for the safer route.
Make no mistake, Mayweather and Marquez remain in Pacquiao’s future plans. Pacquiao’s contract with Arum will expire at the end of the year and many see that a mega fight with Mayweather in 2015 easier to make with Pacquiao a free agent.
Until then, Pacquiao will have to play his cards right. Well, he can start by avoiding a diamond-in-the rough in Provodnikov and settling for the joker, err Bradley.
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