Both Juan Manuel Marquez and Timothy Bradley had a tough decision to make this year. Both had to answer a tough question. Ironically, both were posed with the same question. And oddly enough they both chose the same answer. Their answers are the reason why when Saturday night comes they will be staring at each other on opposite sides of the ring at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, instead of staring at Manny Pacquiao. Both were presented with the option to face Pacquiao, both could have made more money fighting him, but when it came down to making the decision, both decided that it was time to leave Pacquiao in the past, at least for now.
For Juan Manuel Marquez it was a simple choice. His knockout victory over Pacquiao was enough closure to end that chapter in his life. In his mind the Pacquiao-Marquez saga is over. Fighting Manny Pacquiao for a fifth time was not even an option. It was done, over, finished, and nothing was ever going to make him step into the ring with Pacquiao again. Marquez was given time to think, offered more money than he has ever made in a fight, was even bribed in every way a man could be bribed by Bob Arum to accept a fifth fight with Manny Pacquiao. Arum even offered to have it in Mexico City. Arum was everything short of on his knees begging for it. However when push came to shove Marquez stood his ground and told Arum that fighting Pacquiao for a fifth time was not an option.
In four fights filled with action, drama, controversy, a draw, and one of the best knockouts in boxing history Marquez had decided that the Pacquiao chapter in his life was done, and that a new chapter was going to start. He thought of retiring and even spoke with his family about not returning to the ring. After much debate Marquez decided that he had a few fights left, and that none of them would be against Pacquiao. He didn’t need the money, he didn’t need the fame, and he was content with the conclusion to that chapter in his life. For Marquez, it was a fitting end to a saga that involved two controversial losses. So when Bob Arum finally allowed Marquez the option of choosing his next opponent, although Arum did throw Pacquiao’s name in there again, he stuck to his guns and told Arum that Timothy Bradley was the person he wanted to face, the only other person to have “beaten” Manny Pacquiao since his domination started seven years ago.
2012 was the best year of Marquez’s boxing career, but another fighter who faced and “beat” Pacquiao in 2012 was Timothy Bradley. And despite the “victory”, Bradley would end up calling 2012 the worst year of his boxing life. His highly controversial victory over Manny Pacquiao outraged the boxing world so much so that Bradley received threats from fans. He was bashed on every media outlet, and the fans were nearly calling for his head after the fight. Instead of celebrating a victory over one of the best pound for pound fighters in boxing, and lining up his next fight to defend his title, Bradley was forced to go into hiding with only the support of his friends and family until the boxing world had cooled off about his controversial win. The cooling off didn’t come until Pacquiao’s knockout loss to Marquez later in the year.
After Marquez defeated Pacquiao in late of 2012, and Bradley won a Fight of the Year caliber fight over the hard hitting Ruslan Provodnikov, a fight that helped Bradley re-establish his creditability among the fans, Bradley’s name was thrown into the mix as a potential opponent for a rematch with Pacquiao. Marquez’s decline of the fight left the decision in Bradley’s hands. Face Pacquiao again, or fight Juan Manuel Marquez. Bradley, like Marquez, chose to decline a fight with Pacquiao. His reasons would be that he wanted to face a new challenge, and that he and Marquez were the only two fighters to beat Pacquiao in the last seven years so it was logical that they fight. Unlike Marquez though, Bradley isn’t eternally opting out of a Pacquiao fight. For now though, he wants to put the Pacquiao era of his life behind him so that he can focus on Juan Manuel Marquez.
So, Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas two fighters look to move forward, while leaving some good, and some bad, of the past well behind them. For Marquez, it’s another fight to show the world that he deserves to be listed as one of the all-time greats. It’s a chance to solidify himself as the best Mexican fighter to ever exist and to give the fans a couple more exciting fights before he rides off into the sunset. For Bradley, it’s about proving that he deserves to be recognized as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the sport. It’s about redemption, respect, and proving to the critics and fans that he is not just good, he is great. Both have taken different paths on their journey and on Saturday night they get the chance to move forward from Manny Pacquiao and show the world that they are both amazing fighters that can put on their own show as they face each in what is expected to be a toe to toe war between two warriors.