We know that Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. won't be fighting each other in the first half of 2012. And we know who Mayweather will be fighting instead on May 5: Miguel Cotto.
So that leaves one part of the spring-season super-duper-star equation left to be revealed, and that's PacMan's June 9 opponent.
Initially, the list of options included four names: Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Timothy Bradley Jr. and Lamont Peterson. Then Mayweather's name was added. Then it was scratched out. Then Cotto crossed himself off.
That leaves three. All indications coming out of every corner of the boxing world suggest that it will be officially announced next week that Bradley will get the assignment.
Nothing against Bradley, an excellent fighter by any measure, but it's time to say what not enough people seem to be saying: This fight should have gone to Marquez. In every conceivable way, he's a better opponent for Pacquiao than Bradley. In fact, as he's proven repeatedly, he's a better opponent for Pacquiao than anyone not named Floyd Mayweather.
In terms of entertainment value, every Pacquiao-Marquez bout is a fight of the year candidate. Every Bradley bout is a technical draw candidate.
From a business perspective, Marquez is the fourth-most bankable name in boxing (behind Pacquiao, Mayweather and Cotto) and his third fight with Pacquiao last November generated an estimated 1.4 million pay-per-view buys. Bradley doesn't have a fan base, meaning a Pac-Bradley pay-per-view will draw however many buys the Filipino legend can draw with just his name and face on the poster.
With regard to who deserves the fight more, the majority of fans believe Marquez deserved the victory over Pacquiao last time out -- in a fight nearly everyone expected PacMan to win by knockout, by the way. Bradley is the top-rated junior welterweight in the world, but his lone fight in the past 12 months, against a used-up Joel Casamayor, hardly qualifies him for a shot at the people's champ.
Looking at what's best for the fans, for fairness and for the folks counting the receipts, it's Marquez over Bradley all day long. So why was Marquez never given serious consideration for a fourth fight with Pacquiao in June? Why was Cotto the frontrunner initially, and why is it Bradley now?
The only explanation that makes sense is that Marquez fought a little too well for his good in November. Say what you will about Bob Arum and his team at Top Rank, but there are no dummies working in that Las Vegas office. Goal No. 1 is to not let Pacquiao lose (except maybe against Mayweather, when Manny is a fight or two away from retirement). And with Marquez, the third fight illustrated that at any weight and on any date, JMM gives Pacquiao fits.
Again, there's nothing wrong with a Pacquiao-Bradley fight. The man known as "Desert Storm" is a top-10 pound-for-pounder and a credible foe.
But he's no Marquez. Not in terms of name value, not in terms of in-ring excitement and not in terms of what's best for the sport.
I guess the Mexican master was never getting a fourth fight against Pacquiao, no matter what transpired last November.
If Marquez had gotten bowled over, as many predicted, it would have provided a conclusive end to their trilogy.
Instead, we got an ending inconclusive enough to ensure that another chapter won't be written.