by Cliff Rold
There is no controversy this time.
For the second time in three fights, Timothy Bradley squared off with a first ballot lock Hall of Fame legend of his time. He showed the scope of the lessons he’s learned in those fights, a war with Ruslan Provodnikov, and in beating many of the best available in previous title bouts at 140 lbs.
In a fight scored 117-111 in this corner, Bradley calmly edged the majority of the rounds by fighting the smartest fight of his career. In picking Marquez, the thinking was Bradley couldn’t resist the urge to engage. He did, taking a page from the fighters who had most troubled Marquez technically in the past.
It was his night.
Now, it’s likely to be his big payday.
Let’s go the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Bradley B+; Marquez B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Bradley B-; Marquez B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Bradley B; Marquez B+/Post: A; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Bradley A; Marquez A/Post: Same
The fight was a chess match from jump and could have been scored a number of ways. The first six rounds could have gone to either man. What did one like? Marquez was landing single hard shots. Bradley was dictating the pace and getting off first more often. In terms of style clash, it favored Bradley.
As noted in the pre-fight report card, Marquez has always struggled (win or lose) with fighters who back off and box him. He isn’t a natural pressure fighter. He’s a lethal counter puncher. Freddie Norwood, Derrick Gainer, Chris John, and Floyd Mayweather all took elements of his game away from him. In all but Mayweather, he either won or made a case. There will be some who see it that way tonight.
It’s clear though he’s never mastered boxers. Bradley went disciplined boxer tonight. The fight was never boring but it wasn’t great either. It was high-speed chess.
The faster man won. Bradley was rocked hard in the ninth; he wobbled Marquez in the tenth and twelfth. He also made him miss badly in spots. It was as complete a performance as he could have had against a great fighter.
The question now turns to the future. The future focuses on Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios. Let’s just be honest: Bradley is fighting in the Top Rank bracket. Any thoughts of a Floyd Mayweather showdown are far fetched before we get to whether one thinks it would be competitive or not.
If Pacquiao beats Rios, he’s the payday for Bradley. Bradley would command a bigger purse the second time around, if not purse parity, and have a chance to avenge a “win” that still haunts him. How Pacquiao looks against Rios, if he can win what should be a dangerous fight, will help to handicap and create interest in the logical rematch.
If Rios wins, Bradley could choose him, a Marquez rematch, or the winner of Ruslan Provodnikov-Mike Alvarado. Fans win in most of those scenarios. A Marquez rematch might make the most money of those but, after Saturday, we know it’s unlikely to produce an epic. The world can live without Bradley-Marquez II.
Marquez will have to be rooting big for Rios next month. If Pacquiao wins, his year of gloating about his Pacquiao win turns into finding himself outside the driver’s seat once again. If Pacquiao manages to beat Rios and win a Bradley rematch, there is every reason to believe that Marquez’s stance on not wanting a fifth showdown with his arch rival could result in an ironic turn of fortune.
Marquez isn’t done yet. He’ll factor into the mix with the likes of Rios, Alvarado, and Provodnikov too. A great fighter, if perpetually a sore loser, Marquez is still heading to Canastota the moment his name is called. Whether he begins his five-year wait upon retirement a happy man remains to be seen.
For this night, the laurels go to Timothy Bradley, a class act and a true professional that can finally have his moment and enjoy it. He may never be a superstar.
He’s definitely earned his recognition as one hell of a fighter.
Report Card Picks 2013: 40-24 (including a foolish pick of Cruz over Salido elsewhere on the site; Mea Culpa)
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]