by Kieran Mulvaney
We're just a few days away from finding out whether Juan Manuel Marquez can relieve Timothy Bradley of his undefeated record, or whether Bradley has what it takes to prevent Marquez from becoming the first Mexican to win a world title in five weight divisions.
Until the final bell rings, of course, there's no way to know for sure what the outcome will be. We're left with educated guesswork, crystal balls and rune stones, but while there is rarely a shortage of willing fan and media prognosticators, what do the boxers' peers think? We asked several of Bradley and Marquez's fellow HBO Boxing stars – including Ruslan Provodnikov, whose most recent bout was a hellacious duel with Bradley – how they saw things unfolding. Outside of lightweight Terence Crawford, who admitted a rooting interest for his friend Bradley, none of those we asked flat-out predicted a winner. All of them agreed that it had the potential to be a close, hard-to-call contest, and that victory was far from certain for either man.
Mike Alvarado, junior welterweight contender:
"That's going to be an interesting fight. I think Bradley might take that fight. It's going to be a good fight."
Nonito Donaire, featherweight contender and former three-weight world title holder:
"Bradley isn't a hard puncher, but he is a very tough and overall well-rounded fighter, so he has a good chance. But Marquez has fought the best out there. I think that Marquez has the slight edge. He has the power. He has the body shots. He has the overall thing that will give Bradley trouble. But don't get me wrong: Bradley can make it rough, and we know that Marquez can cut easily."
Terence Crawford, lightweight contender:
"I've got to go with Bradley. I've got to go with my boy."
Ruslan Provodnikov, junior welterweight contender:
"I always respected Marquez a lot, always wanted to fight him. I respect him as a boxer and as a person. But after the fight I had with Timothy Bradley, my respect for him also grew a lot, and I feel that we became closer. So in this fight I'll be rooting for Timothy Bradley, and I really hope I have a rematch with him sometime soon. A lot of people are talking about the fact he lost a lot in the fight against me, but I think he has a lot left to give and he'll surprise a lot of people."