Ruslan Provodnikov, Manny Pacquiao's sparring partner, may defeat Timothy Bradley, the guy who defeated Pacquiao, when they meet on Saturday for the WBO welterweight title in the main event of an HBO-televised card at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
However unlikely, Bradley and Provodnikov may even put on what turns out to be the 2013 Fight of the Year.
Regardless of how compelling the fight may be, though, there is no reason that Bradley should be fighting a relative unknown such as Provodnikov following a victory over Pacquiao.
Whether it is Bradley's fault for being difficult to work with; promoter Top Rank's fault for being too concerned about Pacquiao and not enough about Bradley; or some other person's fault is beside the point, however. This simply should never have been allowed to occur.
Bradley is an unbeaten world champion coming off of a victory over one of the biggest names in the sport.
That alone should have gotten Bradley another major fight. Instead, he's fighting the little-known Provodnikov in what is, in essence, a regional show that can't garner significant national or international attention.
Bradley is 29 and at the peak of his career. Even though the majority of fans and media who witnessed his fight with Pacquiao believed the split decision that favored him was in error, the exposure Bradley gained from that fight was invaluable.
It should have been able to garner him a significant fight in its aftermath.
And, for a while, it seemed that he'd get that significant fight. Pacquiao had a rematch clause for the June 9 Bradley bout, meaning that if Bradley were to win, Pacquiao had the option of getting a rematch.
Bradley even joked about that in the days before the fight, holding up a poster promoting the Nov. 10 "rematch."
But the fight didn't do as well on pay-per-view as promoters had hoped – the official number is slightly over 900,000 – and Pacquiao chose to fight Juan Manuel Marquez in December rather than taking the rematch with Bradley.
Those close to Pacquiao said he made the choice because it would have been more costly to get Bradley than it was to get Marquez, and their projections were that Pacquiao-Marquez IV would perform better on pay-per-view than Pacquiao-Bradley II.
Even without Pacquiao, though, there were plenty of quality opponents who Bradley could have fought who would have earned him a good payday.
He turned down a December fight with super lightweight champion Lamont Peterson at Miami Marlins Park because he said foot injuries he had suffered in the Pacquiao match weren't fully healed and, mostly, because he saw no value to a rematch with Peterson.
Bradley, who is 29-0 with 12 knockouts, had throttled Peterson in a one-sided drubbing in a Dec. 12, 2009, bout.
Nothing else, though, materialized and Bradley wound up fighting a guy who is little known among American boxing fans. Provodnikov had, at times, given Pacquiao all he could handle in sparring sessions, but all that means is that he is a high-risk, low-reward option.
No one did Bradley any favors with this pairing. Bradley himself seems to be a different guy as a result of the fallout from the angst surrounding the scoring of the Pacquiao fight.
Bradley said he'd received death threats and was generally treated as if he'd done something wrong.
He hadn't – he fought courageously on two injured feet and certainly didn't judge the fight – but it seemed to matter little to outraged Pacquiao fans.
That experience, he said, has changed him significantly.
"The Pacquiao fight made me grow as a person and as a fighter and it made me realize who was important and who was not important and what is important in my career," he said. "What is not important is what people's perception of me is. Everyone has an opinion and they can say whatever they want to say, but it's not going to stop me from what I do and that's kicking butt in the ring.
"What's important is my family and I pay attention to my career and stop worrying about everyone else's career and what they are making. I just need to focus on my career and my life. Stop reading all this garbage that all these people are writing about me. I stopped reading columns. I used to read it all the time, but now, I don't read it at all."
It doesn't seem, though, that Bradley took his own advice. Had he done so, he would have had a fight with a bigger name opponent that would have done far more for his career.
Promoter Bob Arum certainly didn't do Bradley any favors by ranting against the decision in the Pacquiao fight and demanding an attorney general's investigation.
Whomever he was taking advice from as he planned out the next steps in his career – someone at Top Rank; his wife, Monica; his father, Timothy Bradley Sr.; his manager, Cameron Dunkin; and, possibly, powerful boxing adviser Al Haymon – did little to put him on the right path, though.
You beat one of the biggest draws in the sport and your next fight shouldn't be in an 8,000-seat venue against a virtually unknown opponent.
Timothy Bradley became a star during the Pacquiao promotion and subsequent fight, but he hasn't been handled that way in its aftermath.
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