Former welterweight champion Timothy Bradley Jr. (31-1-1-1, 12 KOs) returns to the ring against fellow American Jessie Vargas (26-0, 9 KOs) at the StubHub Centre in Carson, California on Saturday the 27th June. The winner will be awarded the WBO interim welterweight title, which could materialise as the full title if Floyd Mayweather decides not to pay the $200,000 sanctioning fee required to keep the belt he won from Manny Pacquiao in May.
The issue highlights the overarching influence of promoters on the sport, the WBO welterweight rankings contain a number of fighters who are promoted by Top Rank, including both Bradley and Vargas. It is assumed that the winner of the fight will make a series of defences against other Top Rank fighters, generating further revenue for the company. Boxing is above all else a business but most fans would prefer to think that if a world title was being contested that the best fighters were involved.
Critics say that the natural competitiveness has slipped out of boxing, that the top boxers no longer undertake the risks associated with the best fights. That said it, the clash between Bradley and Vargas is an intriguing one.
Bradley returns following a controversial draw against tough Argentinean; Diego Gabriel Chaves and his only career loss, a rematch with Manny Pacquiao. At thirty-one Bradley is at a crossroads in his career, he has an impressive record having fought a number of world champions including; Junior Witter, Devon Alexander, Manny Pacquiao (twice) and Juan Manuel Marquez, but he has also been involved in a number of ring wars throughout his career.
Bradley absorbed a great deal of punishment in his fight with the hard-punching Ruslan Provodnikov, at times he appeared to be boxing whilst out on his feet but showed true grit in winning a unanimous decision. His last fight against Chaves was an ugly affair marred by the controversial scoring of one judge that resulted in a draw. Bradley was better than the scoring suggested, but there is a concern among some analysts that he may be shopworn.
In contrast, Vargas is the younger, undefeated and skilled. He is hoping that a win against Bradley will be a stepping stone to big fights in the welterweight division. In his last bout, Vargas won a dominant points decision against former lightweight champion Antonio Demarco on the undercard of the Pacquiao v Algieri fight. Vargas is the former WBA light-welterweight champion and has had a slew of high profile trainers including; Robert Alcazar, Roger Mayweather, Ismael Salas, Roy Jones Jr. and currently Erik Morales. The switch to Morales happened in the month leading up to this fight. It is a bizarre choice, as Morales has never trained a fighter to this level before. Morales has always been a championship fighter but it seems unlikely even he can add anything new to Vargas armour in the run-up to this fight.
Aside from that, Vargas is physically the bigger fighter, he fights with an orthodox style and utilises good movement and fast combinations. Bradley struggled to fight on the outside in the Chavez fight, and this is where Vargas will want to position himself. He has the ability to take it to Bradley and win this fight, he is also hungry to become a star and this should provide an exciting fight.
Overall it will be a clash of styles, Bradley will be expected to bob and weave and utilise his duck and roll defence to get on the inside and land shots to the body of Vargas. His overhand right is possibly his greatest weapon in the ring. In both his fights with Pacquiao, Bradley demonstrated that he can deal with pressure fighters, surprising many at ringside with his ability to rock the Pac-Man with overhand rights in their rematch. His experience is key in this fight.
Neither of these fighters is considered to be punchers, so a victory for either is likely to be on points. Vargas has the ability to win this, but a loss for him would not be as devastating as it would be for Bradley. This is a must-win fight for Bradley who needs to get back to winning ways in order to be considered a marquee welterweight. One thing is for certain the fight will tell fans if the consequences of an all-action style have finally caught up with Bradley.