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    Manny leaves future up to Bob
    By Joaquin Henson Updated Monday November 25, 2013 - 12:00am
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    Ruslan Provodnikov

    MACAU - With a glint in his eye, Manny Pacquiao declined to reveal whom he'd like to fight next and left the decision up to Top Rank chairman Bob Arum.

    One of the candidates, WBO lightwelterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov of Russia, scratched his name off the list minutes after Pacquiao administered a thorough thrashing of Brandon Rios at the Cotai Arena in the Venetian Resort Hotel here yesterday morning.

    Speaking through an interpreter, Provodnikov said he'll never fight Pacquiao because he has too much respect for him. Provodnikov trains at Freddie Roach's Wild Card Gym and when he won the WBO crown via a 10th round stoppage of Mike Alvarado in Denver last month, his cornermen included Marvin Somodio and Gavin McMillan. Somodio is Roach's chief training assistant and McMillan works as his conditioning consultant.

    Provodnikov was at ringside to cheer for Pacquiao. He had been mentioned as a possible opponent for Pacquiao but when asked about it, the Russian refused to be considered. It may not only be because they're stablemates. Provodnikov probably realizes Pacquiao fights at a much higher level.

    Arum said he's pinpointing April 12 as a working target for Pacquiao's next fight which is likely to be in Las Vegas. Now that Provodnikov is out of the equation, the speculation is Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez will be the top choices. Bradley outpointed Pacquiao last year although the decision was highly disputed. Marquez was on the verge of collapse when he sneaked in a lucky punch to knock out Pacquiao with a second left in the sixth round last December. The revenge angle will be an intriguing footnote if Pacquiao battles either fighter.

    Arum said an investment group in Mexico City is bidding to stage the fifth chapter in the Pacquiao-Marquez duel next year. But Marquez, who recently lost to Bradley, is rumored to be asking for at least $10 Million, a purse he doesn't deserve.  

    Pacquiao wouldn't comment on talk that Arum plans two fights for the Congressman next year. The scuttlebutt is Pacquiao will face Bradley in April and Floyd Mayweather late in the year. It is becoming increasingly clear that no welterweight has a chance of beating Mayweather except Pacquiao and both appear headed towards a collision course.

    Roach said Bradley is an unexciting fighter who's not commercially viable but if there's nobody else in line for Pacquiao, he'll settle for a rematch with the Desert Storm. At least, Bradley has a title that Pacquiao can gain on the way to the ultimate showdown with Mayweather. Bradley is the WBO welterweight champion and remains unbeaten. Although he's not a box-office draw, there will be interest in a rematch with Pacquiao because Bradley has never been beaten.

    Before facing Rios, Pacquiao vowed to get back on the winning track. "I'm going to do my best to put my name back on the top of boxing," he said. Pacquiao said he never took a step back in training. His chief second Buboy Fernandez said the sacrifice was worth it. "I left my family last Aug. 15 and stayed with Manny in General Santos City to help him prepare for Rios," said Fernandez. "That's a long preparation but Manny knew he had to be in the best condition to beat a fighter like Rios."

    Arum said Pacquiao trained more seriously for Rios than he's ever seen. Roach said his performance against Rios would be his gauge of determining whether or not to advise retirement. Pacquiao, who turns 35 on Dec. 17, reversed the hands of time and brought back the speed that was the hallmark of his success in collecting world titles in eight different divisions. Roach said he's convinced that Pacquiao isn't ready to be led to pasture.  Rios was only eight years old when Pacquiao turned pro in 1995. As the younger fighter, Rios was supposed to outlast Pacquiao in a battle of attrition. But it didn't happen that way.

    Rios was severely trounced by Pacquiao who didn't make it seem like he's nearly eight years older. Pacquiao's legs never betrayed him. He was bouncing on his heels from start to finish, circling away from Rios after delivering blow after blow to avoid a counter. Pacquiao overwhelmed Rios with his speed, combination punching, accuracy and impregnable defense. Rios had no antidote for Pacquiao and not even his advantage in age could make a difference.

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