Following tonight's heart-pounding win over Mike Alvarado on HBO Boxing After Dark, in a fight that lived up to all the hype and expectations, Brandon Rios is now in line for a 2013 fight with Manny Pacquiao, says Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, according to Lance Pugmire of the LA Times, via Twitter.
Arum did say that Floyd Mayweather is still the No. 1 target, but we've all been up and down that lost highway numerous times at this point, so the real statement here, behind the statement, is that if Manny Pacquiao beats Juan Manuel Marquez on December 8, Brandon Rios is the leading candidate to face Manny when he returns in April 2013.
Rios (31-0-1, 23 KO) stopped Alvarado in the seventh round of a truly brutal war that did nothing but up the profile of both men, in front of an abnormally excited crowd that reacted heartily to every big shot landed on either side. It was a fight they paid money to see, and those fans expected a war. They got one and then some.
Of course, Pacquiao has to get past Marquez first, as mentioned, and that's far from a sure thing. One thing it does mean is that if Timothy Bradley was perhaps content to wait until April and try to land a Pacquiao rematch then, after being passed over for December 8, he probably should just forget all about that and move on with his career.
I don't know that Rios is a great Pacquiao opponent, but he's certainly fresh, and with the way he fights, it would be a can't-miss matchup. Rios has not fought seriously over 140 pounds in his career, and tonight's junior welterweight fight with Alvarado proved that his chin can handle that weight class, but we don't know about 147, and we still don't know about the likes of a Pacquiao-level opponent.
But there's only one way to find out. Right now, if you're optimistic about Pacquiao's chances against Marquez in fight number four, I'm not saying it's a lock, but you can probably at least pencil in Pacquiao-Rios for April. At least this time we might not have to deal with the manufactured drama of Manny's shopping list of potential opponents.