Juan Manuel Marquez could face Brandon Rios in July, and the winner could potentially face Manny Pacquiao. (Photos by Harry How and Al Bello/Getty Images)
Juan Manuel Marquez and Brandon Rios are set to co-headline a Top Rank-produced, HBO-distributed pay-per-view on April 14, with Marquez facing Serhiy Fedchenko in Mexico City, and Rios taking on Richard Abril in Las Vegas, but the money story -- and the sell of the PPV -- is that if both win as expected, they could meet on July 14 at Cowboys Stadium in Texas.
Bob Arum is continuing to push the promise of the July fight, reports Rick Reeno, though some believe that it's more or less just a way to try and sell this frankly underwhelming April pay-per-view. And the winner of that fight just might get a crack at Manny Pacquiao later this year, probably in November. That's the fight Marquez ultimately wants, and it's a fight Rios would no doubt love to take, too.
I've noted before that it seems unlikely that Marquez (53-6-1, 39 KO) would want to risk a potential fourth fight with Pacquiao on someone as dangerous as Rios (29-0-1, 22 KO), but let's look at this another way: What if he really has no choice but to risk it?
Top Rank controls what Manny Pacquiao does, and by extension, what anyone who wants to fight Manny Pacquiao does. If Marquez were to turn down a Rios fight at Cowboys Stadium -- and Arum's desire to have another card there is, for whatever reason, very real -- who's to say that Arum would sign him up in November to face Manny? He could just slot in Rios, who would perhaps fight again at Cowboys Stadium against someone else.
And all of this assumes, of course, that Pacquiao beats Timothy Bradley on June 9. If he doesn't, and Manny fights again, surely he'd be rematching Bradley in November.
With the way things line up, Marquez has two options: Play it risky and fight Rios, or play it risky and balk at the idea. Either way he's gambling. Marquez vs Rios in July might be more likely than I earlier suspected, because I didn't take all of this into account. Maybe it's a serious reality. If it is, then great, because it's an excellent fight and couldn't possibly be less than terrific in the ring.