It’s been a pretty terrible week for news outlets breaking stories, so it’s worth going forward with the entire shaker of salt. Nevertheless, legitimate websites are reporting (not in English, but beggars can’t be choosers) that Timothy Bradley, Jr., he of this month’s face-melter with Ruslan Provodnikov, is set to face Juan Manuel Marquez this September. The fight, which will presumably take place on Mexican Independence Weekend to take full advantage of Marquez’s native audience, is no less than Bradley has earned thusfar in his career. Despite struggling to angle himself for a big money fight after his non-loss to Manny Pacquiao, Bradley maintained as strong a record as boxing allows for. When you keep the “0” after your wins, good things are bound to happen. In this case, Juan Manuel Marquez is that good thing.
There’s no indication as to whether Bradley’s handlers or Top Rank can take credit for steering this ship to port, but conventional wisdom dictates Bradley’s camp wanting this more than Top Rank honcho Bob Arum. This fight would unquestionably be a pay-per-view, which would demand that Marquez be the major selling point to potential buyers. Marquez is certainly up to the task, but Bradley is an unknown quantity when it comes to generating money. Attributing any of the Bradley-Pacquiao pay-per-view success to Bradley is akin to crediting Mean Gene Okerlund with the rise of WrestleMania. While you and I will certainly get excited about this fight, it’s hard to envision broader non-Mexican appeal that Top Rank would prefer on what is traditionally a strong pay-per-view weekend.
That said, I imagine Top Rank isn’t all that frustrated by this matchup. Bob Arum is one of the great protectionists in sports, and Juan Manuel Marquez stands to benefit from that. Much though I salute Bradley’s work, specifically his most recent effort, he is not the cash cow or the preternatual talent of his stablemates. Despite beating his last two opponents, he did so with distinct difficulty. Top Rank knows that viewers need a pause before diving into Pacquiao-Marquez V, which is plainly Arum’s desire for May 2014. Marquez could do to polish his resume in the interim, and sullying Timothy Bradley’s pristine record is as good a feather to put in the cap as is available for a Top Rank welterweight.
And make no mistake about it, Top Rank would prefer Marquez win this fight. He’s the proven pay-per-view star, the biggest Mexican presence in their arsenal, and arguably their best fighter at the moment. So long as Marquez continues to look good against top competition, Bob Arum will continue doing Bob Arum things and the boxing sun will set in the West. The double down on Bradley as something of a paper tiger isn’t a terrible bet, but it’s already burnt Top Rank once. Should they lose again, they’ll probably pretend none of it ever happened and just go ahead with Pacquiao-Marquez V anyway in a WWE-style “Loser Must Retire” event.
While such stipulations are highly presumptuous (and, let’s get real, not happening), a Bradley-Marquez fight is less so. The fight makes sense from all angles, some moreso than others. Anything can happen when various promotional agendas run aground of one another, but I would bet this fight gets announced sooner rather than later to the contentment of all involved.