MANILA, Philippines - The candidates’ list from which to choose Manny Pacquiao’s next opponent for a fight tentatively on April 12 in Las Vegas is narrowing down to WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley and Freddie Roach said recently it’s a match most likely to happen.
Roach confided that Juan Manuel Marquez’ lawyer told him the Mexican plans a tune-up fight before possibly facing Pacquiao in a fifth encounter late next year. “Marquez doesn’t want to fight Manny next, at least that’s what his lawyer mentioned,” said Roach. “If Manny fights Bradley in April, why not put Marquez in the same card? I think a Marquez fight against Ruslan (Provodnikov) would be terrific. If both Manny and Marquez win, they could fight again and settle their rivalry once and for all.”
Marquez, 40, lost to Bradley on a split 12-round decision in Las Vegas last October and said he was robbed. He also cried foul in three previous Pacquiao fights where they drew and the Filipino won twice, once on a split decision and another on a majority verdict. In December last year, Marquez knocked out Pacquiao at 2:59 of the sixth round with what seemed like a lucky punch. Marquez was on the verge of collapse when he tagged Pacquiao coming forward as the round came to an end.
Provodnikov, 29, is the reigning WBO lightwelterweight titleholder. He lost to Bradley on points last March but bounced back to wrest the WBO crown from Mike Alvarado on a 10th round retirement in Denver two months ago. Roach’s chief assistant Marvin Somodio and conditioning consultant Gavin MacMillan were in the Russian’s corner for the fight. Provodnikov trains at Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles.
For a while, Provodnikov was in the candidates’ list for Pacquiao’s next opponent. But he withdrew. Provodnikov was at ringside in Macau when Pacquiao trounced Brandon Rios last month. “Ruslan won’t ever fight Manny,” said Roach. “He has too much respect for Manny and he considers him a friend. I told him if a promoter offered $10 Million to fight Manny, he should take it. For a fighter, it’s all about financial security and that kind of a paycheck will set up Ruslan for life. He’s careful with his money so that purse will secure his future.”
The problem is if Provodnikov fights Pacquiao, the Roach team won’t be in his corner. “We’ll be on Manny’s side, of course,” said Roach. “But Ruslan told me he’ll never leave our team, that he’ll retire first before he fights Manny. I remember Ruslan sparring with Manny before. Manny was too quick for Ruslan who got bloodied even while wearing a head protector. If Ruslan fights Marquez, that would be a great match.”
Roach said a Pacquiao-Bradley rematch wouldn’t be exciting but it’s a fight where the Filipino could regain the world title. “Maybe, Manny against Robert Guerrero would be a better fight because Guerrero always comes to fight,” said Roach. “I remember Guerrero coming over to the gym and sparring with Manny years back. The problem is, I think, Guerrero is tied in with Showtime and Golden Boy so I don’t know if that fight can be arranged.” Guerrero, a former interim WBC welterweight champion who lost to Mayweather on points last May, declared recently he’s available to fight Pacquiao.
Roach said he’ll be back in Asia to work Chinese flyweight Zou Shiming’s corner for a fight on Top Rank’s “Ring of Gold” card at the Cotai Arena inside the Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino in Macau on Feb. 22. Zou, Japan’s Ryota Murata and Russia’s Egor Melchontsev – all 2012 London Olympic boxing gold medalists – will be featured in the bill. Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said he will spice up the card with two world title fights. Zou, 32, has a 3-0 pro record. He’s a three-time world amateur boxing champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist. Roach said he will only work Zou’s corner in Macau.
Roach said his girlfriend Dr. Maya Matthews, a critical care specialist at the Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles, has never been to Macau or the Philippines and if her schedule allows, he’ll take her along for the February job. “If there’s time, we could swing by the Philippines,” said Roach. “I’d love to take her to that island I went to during a break in Manny’s training in General Santos City. I think it’s called Tuko Island and Manny has a house there. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen, like paradise. On the beach, we ate tuna fresh out of the sea. Someone told me it’s rebel territory but I felt secure with Val (Dalid, his Muslim bodyguard).”