Plan B: Bradley vs. Marquez?

The identity of Manny Pacquiao's next opponent isn't set, even though promoter Bob Arum for weeks has said it would be one of three men: Juan Manuel Marquez (in a fourth fight), Timothy Bradley Jr. or Miguel Cotto (both rematches).

The date of the fight isn't set in stone, either. First it was going to be Nov. 10. Then it was going to be Dec. 1. And it has gone back and forth for the past week or so.

If you talk to folks behind the scenes, Arum is having difficulty getting Pacquiao to commit to an opponent and fight.

But let's say for the sake of argument that Pacquiao wants to go with Cotto and they strike a deal. It would erase the issue of which guy will fight Dec. 1, because that's when Cotto plans to fight next, and it would make things a lot easier for Top Rank and HBO PPV. There's also a chance -- and I think it's a decent one -- that Pacquiao will decide not to fight again this year.

If either of those scenarios unfolds, there's a reasonable chance we could see a fight between Bradley and Marquez, a fresh match that I happen to think is a very interesting and marketable pay-per-view fight.

On Monday, Top Rank hosted a news conference at the Millennium Biltmore hotel in Los Angeles to formally announce the Oct. 13 HBO doubleheader featuring unified junior featherweight titlist Nonito Donaire against former titleholder Toshiaki Nishioka and a junior welterweight rumble between Mike Alvarado and former lightweight titlist Brandon Rios.

Cameron Dunkin, who manages Donaire, Rios and Bradley, was on hand. Bradley, who lives in Southern California, was also in attendance so he could meet with Dunkin to discuss his future. Others at the meeting: Monica Bradley (Bradley's wife), Arum and Top Rank president Todd duBoef.

According to Dunkin, the possibility of a Bradley-Marquez fight was discussed, and it wasn't the first time.

Both sides view it as a doable and quality backup plan in case neither lands a Pacquiao fight.

"It's a fight we've been talking about -- me, Bradley, Bob and Todd," Dunkin said. "They tell me that Marquez and [promoter Fernando] Beltran have been talking about it, too, as a possibility.

"I'm not saying it's happening. What I'm saying is that it's a fight that's very interesting and a fight that everyone seems to love. Manny is the boss with the date and the opponent. It's his call and we're all waiting on him. But if both of these guys [Bradley and Marquez] are free, that's a fight we would love and would go further in pursuit of. And I think Marquez and Beltran feel the same way about fighting Tim. Top Rank told us Marquez is very interested in the fight."

Not only is it a good match between top fighters, but Bradley and Marquez could make more money by fighting each other than they probably could make for any makeable fall fight other than one against Pacquiao.

Bradley, a former unified junior welterweight titleholder, claimed a welterweight belt in June with his highly controversial decision against Pacquiao. Marquez, 0-2-1 in three controversial decisions against Pacquiao, owns a junior welterweight belt. Dunkin said if a showdown between Bradley and Marquez did take place this fall, it would likely be for Bradley's title.

"We will wait and see how this all plays out with Manny, but a Bradley-Marquez fight is a fight we've talked about for Timmy if he doesn't get Pacquiao again," Dunkin said. "It's a good pay-per-view, and both Bob and Todd agreed and said they'd be interested in doing it. It's a fight we were really intrigued with, so we were talking about it."

Dunkin said Arum brought it up during the lengthy meeting with Bradley.

"Bob said, 'There are fights out there for you, Tim' -- and Tim and I had already talked about the fight -- and Bob said, 'Marquez and you would be a terrific fight. There are other things you can do if you don't get the Pacquiao fight. We gotta build a business around you. You and Marquez, that's a very appealing fight.' Everyone at the table said, 'What about that fight?' We asked, Would Marquez fight Tim? Arum said Marquez and Beltran would do the fight."

So it'll be up to Pacquiao to decide what he wants to do, but at least if Bradley and Marquez aren't in his plans, each has a great alternative.