Monday, November 9, 2015

Can Timothy Bradley Now Be Considered Number One In The Welterweight Division?

On November 7th Timothy Bradley met Brandon Rios in a much-anticipated encounter at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, NV with Bradley’s WBO World Welterweight championship at stake. This fight had the look of a battle that would be action-packed leading up to it between two fighters who are offensive-minded and always leave it all in the ring.

Prior to this bout this observer stated that the question I had in my mind was whether or not Bradley would elect to attempt to box Rios or if he would be willing to stand and go toe to toe. Although I commented prior to the fight that in thinking of how the fight would be fought that I had thoughts of Timothy Bradley’s thrilling battle with Ruslan Provodnikov in 2013, Bradley’s fight with Rios could best be described as an example of a fighter executing his fight plan to the best of his ability.

In his first fight under the guidance of the legendary Teddy Atlas, Timothy Bradley would put forth the type of performance that turns heads. From the outset Bradley used lateral movement and combination punching to dictate how the fight was fought. What was noticeable in the eyes of this observer was how well Bradley used his footwork in order to set up angles to execute his offense.

Bradley’s ability to be the quicker and more accurate fighter was the story of the fight as he consistently beat Rios to the punch. What was most surprising however, about Bradley’s performance was that he was able to remain consistent and not allow Rios much room in which to land something significant that may have been able to turn the fight in his favor.

Bradley’s commitment to his fight plan and his execution of it eventually broke Rios down as the champion was able to score two knockdowns in the ninth round, the result of both an accumulation of punishment as well as effective body punching to cause a stoppage of the fight. For a fighter who was looking to impress in his first title defense of his second reign as a Welterweight world champion, Bradley’s performance was certainly impressive and probably exceeded expectations.

An interesting question however, is off of a dominating victory over a very dangerous opponent in Brandon Rios, can Timothy Bradley now be considered the top fighter in the 147lb. Welterweight division?  It is a fair question that will likely generate a difference of opinion.

It is important to remember when discussing the current landscape of the Welterweight division that it is a division that is heading towards a period of transition following the recent retirement of unified WBC/WBA world champion Floyd Mayweather. Although Manny Pacquiao, the fighter widely considered to be either number one in the division or 1-A behind Mayweather for several years prior to their fight earlier this year remains an active fighter, there are questions regarding how long he will remain active.

Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum has gone on record in recent weeks saying that Pacquiao will fight once more in April of next year and then retire. Although Pacquiao’s potential opponent for that fight remains unknown as of this writing, perhaps a more important question is who in the division currently can take over as the number one fighter following the retirement of Mayweather and what could be future retirement of Pacquiao?

Currently, there are three world champions in the division outside of the unified world championship that Mayweather still officially holds. The IBF world champion Kell Brook, the WBO world champion Timothy Bradley, and IBO world champion Tsiko Mulovhedzi. 

Even though Mulovhedzi won his world title in July by scoring a fifth round knockout over Ali Funeka, he is not particularly well-known and has never fought outside of his native South Africa. This would likely lead some to believe that if a division front-runner is to emerge it will likely be between either Bradley or Brook. One should not forget however, undefeated top contender Keith Thurman, who currently holds interim/regular champion status in the WBA’s Welterweight ratings.

It may be logical to assume given Floyd Mayweather’s recent retirement that Thurman will be named WBA world champion in the near future by the World Boxing Association. Thurman should be viewed as a legitimate threat to either of the current world champions in the division and if he is indeed named WBA world champion could be viewed as an interesting unification option for either of the three.

In the eyes of this observer however, Timothy Bradley has made a strong argument for himself as being perhaps the top fighter in the division currently. Bradley was not only able to retain his world championship and score a victory, but it was the fashion in which that victory came by dominating and stopping a fighter who had never previously been knocked out in Rios which gives Bradley as much credibility as anyone in the division to make his claim as being number one.

As for what is next for Bradley, it was announced on the day of his fight with Rios that the WBO world championship committee would order the winner of the fight to reach an agreement for a mandatory title defense against undefeated current WBO number one contender Sadam Ali within ten days following the Bradley-Rios fight.

Whether Sadam Ali will be next for Bradley remains to be seen. For Bradley however, no matter who he fights next he is likely feeling very optimistic and motivated coming off of a knockout win and about the future under the tutelage of his trainer Teddy Atlas.

“And That’s the Boxing Truth.”

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