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Alvarado vs. Provodnikov: Is Tim Bradley Rematch Next for Russian Star?

BROOMFIELD, CO - OCTOBER 19:  Ruslan Provodnikov (L) of Russia delivers a punch to Mike Alvarado (R) as Provodnikov won their bout with a TKO in the 10th round to claim the WBO Junior Welterweight Title at the 1stBank Center on October 19, 2013 in Broomfield, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Lyle FitzsimmonsFeatured ColumnistOctober 20, 2013

Let the record show that HBO’s Max Kellerman did dutifully pop the question.

Moments after Ruslan Provodnikov pounded Mike Alvarado into a post-10th-round submission to annex the WBO’s 140-pound title, the neatly bearded analyst adroitly boxed the Russian into a verbal corner with the simple query, “Who do you want next, champ?”

Unfortunately for Max, the fatigue of the moment overrode any attempt at foreshadowing.

“Don’t make me give you the answer right now,” the cut, swollen and reddened new champion said, through interpreter (and co-manager) Vadim Kornilov.

“The answer I have right now is that I’m very tired.”

It was a predictable reply, given the brutality the 29-year-old had been through over 30 in-ring minutes. But rather than waiting until he regains the energy to have the requisite meetings with managers and promoters to plot the next career step, we’ll go ahead and make a suggestion.

Get Timothy Bradley on the phone, strike a deal and sign the contract.

Sooner rather than later. Because it just makes sense.

Until Provodnikov met Bradley in the 147-pounder’s first WBO title defense seven months ago, he was an anonymous commodity in Freddie Roach’s training stable whose greatest in-ring claims to fame had been sparring with Manny Pacquiao and outpointing DeMarcus Corley.

Then, upon exiting that fight in Carson, Calif.—a brutal 12-rounder in which Bradley was battered and dropped before escaping with a narrow verdict—the Russian was elevated to the top-shelf B-side status previously occupied by Alvarado himself until his upset of Brandon Rios.

Now, upon punching his way to a promotion, Bradley would make a perfect bonus.

The unbeaten Californian’s stock has never been higher, thanks to a clinical 12-round decision over Juan Manuel Marquez in an HBO pay-per-view event last weekend in Las Vegas. That match was shown on regular HBO before Saturday night’s World Championship Boxing card, a juxtaposition that, in Saturday’s aftermath, couldn’t have been better had it been scripted.

And with Bradley’s post-Marquez agenda appearing initially unclear—Bob Arum was less than optimistic a rematch with Pacquiao could even be made—no one else in the Top Rank stable would require less marketing labor to pass off as worthy of a shot at a welterweight belt.

If Bradley wins a return bout, he’s successfully vanquished the guy who pushed him closer to the brink than a pair of Canastota-bound superstars. If Provodnikov wins, he cements his place as a 21st-century Arturo Gatti and makes a third go-round with “Desert Storm” a surefire blockbuster.

History aside—considering the top available contenders within their own divisions are Keith Thurman (147) and Serhiy Fedchenko (140)—a cross-pollination of the two is a no-brainer.

Kellerman’s HBO sidekick, Roy Jones Jr., is already on board with the proposition.

“He should go for a big fish by the name of Tim Bradley,” Jones said on the broadcast, adding that Bradley’s path to recognition as the sport’s top performer requires repeat defeats of his two razor-thin pre-Marquez victories against Pacquiao and Provodnikov.

“His dream is to prove he’s the No. 1 fighter in the world. If I were Tim Bradley and I’d had a close fight with both Provodnikov and Pacquiao, I’d go back and avenge (Pacquiao) first and then go and do this one.”

Even if his sequence is off, Roy’s got the right idea.

And even if it’s a consolation prize to Manny II, it’s doubtful anyone will complain.

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