The Pacquiao, Bradley and Marquez Triangle: Who's at the Pinnacle?

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COMMENTARY | Timothy Bradley defeated Juan Manuel Marquez via split decision in their October 12 fight on HBO pay-per-view, winning by official scores of 116-112 and 115-113, against 115-113 for Marquez. The outcome of Bradley vs. Marquez adds even more confusion to what was an already messy situation -- making sense of the Manny Pacquiao, Marquez and Bradley triangle. After Bradley's win, who's at the pinnacle of this group, and what's next?

Pacquiao has fought Marquez four times. In their latest match, in December 2012, Marquez scored a dramatic one punch knockout win, the 2012 Knockout of the Year. It was the only decisive result across all four contests, following a Draw and two Pacquiao wins, all of which were disputed.

Therefore, Marquez should be ahead of Pacquiao in this 3-person hierarchy.

Bradley "defeated" Pacquiao in their June 2012 fight, but while Marquez scored a KO of the Year victory, this bout actually served as the 2012 Robbery of the Year. Fans and media who watched the bout near-unanimously scored it in Pacquiao's favor, and it seemed as if he had won a solid nine or 10 rounds in the contest.

Therefore, Pacquiao should be ahead of Bradley.

Yet, Bradley just defeated Marquez. It was a hard-fought victory, and one which left a sour taste in Marquez's mouth, despite the fact that Bradley did more than enough to earn the win.

Therefore, Bradley should be ahead of Marquez. But Bradley can't be ahead of Marquez if Marquez is ahead of Pacquiao and Pacquiao is ahead of Bradley. Confused yet?

The Pacquiao-Marquez-Bradley triangle is a great example of the classic boxing axiom that styles make fights. Marquez's timing and counter-punching has always been a foil for the unbridled aggression and offense of Pacquiao. But Pacquiao's speed and fluidity was a problem for Bradley, and Bradley's combination of versatile skill and toughness proved a difficult challenge for a 40-year-old Marquez.

With a mixed bag of results between them, you have to prioritize the most recent results. Even though Pacquiao should have earned a clear win over Bradley, his devastating knockout defeat against Marquez lowers his positioning, and leaves him at the bottom of this three person heap.

He still hasn't gotten back in the ring yet, so we don't know how he'll look at this stage of his career, and whether or not he'll be in action against either of these two again.

Bradley's win over Marquez therefore leaves him at the pinnacle, the number 1 position of this unique trifecta. Despite the Pacquiao fight, and not at all counting that as a "win" in his favor, he has to be the top dog on the strength of the Marquez win, paired with Marquez's KO win over Pacquiao.

As of today, the ranking has to be Bradley in the pole position, followed by Marquez, with Pacquiao bringing up the rear. There's simply no other way to sort the three fighters out right now.

So what's next? Pacquiao fights in November against Brandon Rios, a bout he'll be heavily favored to win. Assuming he gets past Rios -- if he doesn't, he will likely be headed towards retirement -- a rematch with Bradley, or a 5th fight against Marquez are both possibilities. Or Bradley and Marquez could be lined up for a rematch first, and Pacquiao could wait on the sidelines until more clarity emerges between those two.

Either way, there are loads of possibilities and exciting fights out there. Throw the winner of the Mike Alvarado vs. Ruslan Provodnikov fight in the mix, a stacked Welterweight division, and of course, the sport's pound-for-pound kingpin, Floyd Mayweather, and boxing fans should be in for a treat to see which man can emerge.

Jake Emen runs the boxing news website, where you can find breaking news stories, interviews, rankings and more. You can also follow Jake on Twitter, @DCJake.

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