Given that I’ve managed to step out a few Saturday nights in the last month, I finally had a moment to watch the Bradley vs. Provodnikov bout on March 16th. I believe the 16th had been a UFC night. I can’t remember. But nonetheless, the fight caught my attention on two very important points. First, the welterweight division had been a top heavy division where the fighters ranked in the top four had managed to play the ducking game. With my favorite fighter Pacquiao, and yes, RSR fans, he’s still my favorite fighter despite being in absentia; the time has come to take an honest look at where Pacquiao plays in the division.
Second, what about future match ups for the division? But let’s take a look at the significance of the Bradley vs. Provodnikov bout.
Bradley had taken 10 months off since his victory over Pacquiao. He won the fight by a split decision that still leaves a bad taste in the mouth when it comes to leaving things to the scorecards. But nonetheless, Bradley emerged the winner, with many naysayers quick to criticize that Pacquiao was losing his edge. And, don’t worry, I won’t mention the most recent Marquez bout just yet. I had no idea about the young brawler under Roach’s tutelage. Then, the first round bell rang. Followed by a tough as nails Bradley losing his legs and not having the round scored as a knockdown. Provodnikov was no joke and he was not about to let the champion Bradley bully him by any means. Even Carlos Diaz, Bradley’s trainer, offered that Bradley could not get careless with Provodnikov. It would be a long twelve rounds for Bradley. Both Roach and Diaz kept careful watch on their fighters throughout the entire bout.
Provodnikov, 22-2, 15 KO’s is truly giving the welterweight some much needed brawl. A lot of the fighters among the division are technically skilled with solid boxing fundamentals. But I liken Provodnikov to Rocky Balboa from Rocky I and II. Provodnikov continued to take solid connects from Bradley, but he still kept punching and kept after Bradley each round. Once Roach polishes him up a bit, he won’t have any problem getting matched up.
On May 4th, Floyd “Money” Mayweather, 43-0, 26 KO’s, currently ranked #1, will face off against Robert Guerrero, 31-1, 18 KO’s. Like Pacquiao, Mayweather remains rather quiet in the last couple of months. His Facebook page had indicated Devon Alexander as a possible opponent, but I think the monetary appeal was not enough for Mayweather. He has Pacquiao, always had Pacquiao, I’d argue, as a possible opponent, but that possibility has simply bit the dust. Gone.
On my DVR, in the build-up before the fourth fight between Pacquiao and Marquez, I had kept the recordings of the previous three bouts. And then I watched the fourth bout with the 6th round KO. Heartbreaking. Pure KO. But then I couldn’t help but watch the previous three bouts between the two. In boxing, as it has been said, is really legalized assault between two willing combatants. But I will offer that with Pacquiao and Marquez, they brought out the best in each other. They fought hard against one another. The fourth bout was a true culmination of the weight on Marquez’s shoulders to finally defeat the opponent that had fought just as hard to win twice and fight to a draw.
In what was once the division ruled by Pacquiao, currently ranked #5, the state of the welterweight division is changing yet again. I believe that Pacquiao can still be in the mix and I love that he, along with Marquez, had continued to keep taking fights, even as they are on what could be the sunset of their careers.
Pacquiao has been, as I always considered, an active fighter that fought at least twice a year and simply wanted to fight. Pacquiao’s legacy lies not in his most recent losses, but shows the natural evolution of a boxing career. If anything, Pacquiao’s level of boxing influenced other fighters to be better than what they are. With the help of Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, Pacquiao developed into a solid, champion fighter. But for what he might not have had in technical skill, or boxing savvy, he fought with his heart, and never stopped his form of aggression, ultimately meeting and defeating his opponent.
As for any future match-ups in the division, it’s hard to tell what Pacquiao and Arum might have in mind. I always liked playing match-up, but I feel Pacquiao’s next plausible bout exists in a rematch. A Pacquiao vs. Marquez bout? I say no. A Pacquiao vs. Bradley bout? I’d say yes. Against Provodnikov, Bradley really showed what he’s made of physically and mentally. I’d like to see this Bradley fight that way against Pacquiao.
But for now, Pacquiao has earned the right to weigh his options carefully. In the up and up of his career, I had always wondered why Pacquiao never fought in the Philippines. As his career may or may not be winding down, I doubt Pacquiao will retire on a loss. I think he’s got one more in him. More importantly, I think he’s got one more victory in him. Just step right up, future Pacquiao opponent, and let yourself be known. Boxing fans can’t wait.