By Jake Donovan
Sometimes it’s good to be the king. Other times, it’s simply lonely at the top.
The latter is proven to be the harsh reality in the world of 140 lb. king Timothy Bradley, who a week ago appeared set to line up his next foe, one whose handlers specifically asked for him by name.
Current lightweight Edwin Valero was thought to be next in line, if you were to believe the actions of his handlers mere moments after his dominant ninth round stoppage of Antonio DeMarco earlier this month on Showtime.
Immediately after the bout, Shaw was approached by Fernando Beltran, the show’s co-promoter who arrived with Valero in tow, expressing their interest in a fight with Bradley.
The suggesting caught Shaw off guard, whose head was still spinning after watching what happened to DeMarco, with whom the promoter enjoys a father-son like relationship.
“I wasn’t in the mood to talk after (the DeMarco fight),” explained Shaw. “I told them I need to talk to (Bradley’s manager, Cameron) Dunkin.”
What helped sober up Shaw in a hurry was waking up the next morning to quotes made by Bob Arum, Valero’s promoter, specifying to Boxingscene.com Editor-In-Chief Rick Reeno his intentions to have Valero move up in weight in pursuit of a dream fight with pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao.
While Pacquiao went directly from 135 to 147 before dropping back down – and eventually moving back up – in weight, the plan for Valero’s ascension through the weight class is far more conventional.
“The plan would be to move up to 140. He’s having trouble making 135,” stated Arum. “He would go up to 140 and fight some good junior welterweights – like Tim Bradley.”
It was all that Shaw needed to hear before proceeding with future business. Rather than simply react, the New Jersey-based promoter wanted to get his ducks in a row before responding to the request.
“I contacted Cameron on Sunday. On Monday he gave me the go-ahead to make the fight. I asked Showtime if they would accept Bradley-Valero. They said yes, that they would set aside the first Saturday in June and would discuss a budget once it’s done.
“I then called Carl Moretti, who was in Mexico as well. I told them the good news, and also that they wouldn’t have to worry about getting Valero into the U.S. because Timothy would be willing to fight him in Mexico.”
In a perfect world, the next step would’ve been to proceed with contracts and put ink to paper.
What instead next took place was radio silence.
“Bob never called another website, nor did I ever hear back from anyone else at Top Rank,” says Shaw. “The only comment I read was, ‘We have plenty of time.’ There’s no plenty of time – if you have the date, you take the date.”
The move is sadly more of the same as of late when it comes to securing the next opponent for Bradley, who has proven without doubt that he is not only the best junior welterweight in the world, but always willing to put action behind those words in his willingness to fight anyone.
Bradley was brought along by regional promotional outfit Thompson Boxing before hooking up with Shaw in a co-promotional deal for the Californian. The move led to several appearances on Showtime’s prospect-based Shobox series as well as his first shot at a major title.
Having never fought outside of his home state of California, Bradley flew to jolly old England and came back with alphabet hardware after dropping and eventually outpointing Junior Witter in May 2008.
Four title defenses have since followed – all on Showtime, and all against the type of competition other champions and top fighters aren’t always so eager to face.
The closest Bradley has come to defeat was suffering a pair of knockdowns against Kendall Holt in their alphabet unification match last April. Bradley hit the deck in the first and last rounds of their 12-round bout, but piled up enough points in between to escape with a well-deserved decision.
His latest performance confirmed his rising star power, turning in a flawless and surprisingly dominant performance against previously unbeaten contender Lamont Peterson this past December.
It’s possible that Bradley looked “too good” in that fight, as there haven’t been very many takers in what has become a struggling effort to line up his next fight.
“Bradley’s performances against Holt and Peterson spooked everyone,” believes Shaw. “When you have a belt but are seen as beatable, everyone wants you. Then when you get better, people back off.”
That list continues to grow longer.
“Put Valero on the milk carton, along with Victor Ortiz, Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana. They’re all ducking the #1 140 lb. fighter in the world. You can add Zab Judah to the list as well. We also offered the fight to Yoel Judah. Last I heard, Zab wanted a tune-up. In this day and age, if you want a tune-up, go to an auto mechanic. HBO and Showtime are out of the tune-up business.”
Sadly, HBO appears to be in a different kind of business these days. While Bradley is, for all intent and purposes, a Showtime fighter, HBO has decided to stage a series of junior welterweight bouts.
First up is an alphabet unification match between Devon Alexander and Juan Urango on March 6. Marcos Maidana – one of three Golden Boy fighters who has declined the opportunity to face Bradley – will face Victor Cayo on HBO later in the month.
On tap for the spring are dates for Amir Khan and Victor Ortiz, both of whom were offered a fight with Bradley, neither of whom expressed any desire to accept.
At least to their credit, the handlers for each of the aforementioned Golden Boy fighters didn’t keep Team Bradley waiting by the phone.
“Richard Schaefer told me as a gentleman – and I accept it – that none of his kids want to fight (Bradlely),” says Shaw. “It wasn’t the date or money; they just don’t want to fight him. They’re a promotional company and will do what they see fit. But Oscar is the one always talking about doing what’s best for boxing, so they should look at the best fights out there.”
Khan’s next opponent is immediately unknown, though Paul Malignaggi remains a strong possibility. Ortiz’ future is more definitive; he will next face Nate Campbell, whose last fight was his aborted loss-turned-no-contest against Bradley last summer.
For the moment, it remains unclear if the winners of any of these bouts will next face one another. HBO once hinted at such a series taking place, though not for the purpose of claiming divisional supremacy – that road goes through Tim Bradley.
Their plan is to instead create a future opponent for Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao. The idea was concocted at a time when it was believed Mayweather and Pacquiao were set to face each other in March. With that fight obviously not happening next (and quite possibly never at all), a contingency plan will have to come about somewhere along the way for this makeshift junior welterweight series.
The simplest response would be to send them Bradley’s way, as you know he’ll be waiting with open arms. But if things were that simple, then Bradley’s next opponent wouldn’t be TBA, nor would everyone else in the division look in any other direction than the top spot.
“This is why we need a league, like other sports,” insists Shaw. “In any other sport, teams in the same division have to play each other. That’s what boxing needs, where you don’t have to worry about looking anywhere else for a fight. Tim shouldn’t have to beg anyone for a fight. They should want to unify the titles and want to see who is the best.”
Instead, Bradley is left with the title of the world’s best junior welterweight, and figures to run unopposed for quite some time – or at least he elects to set up campaign headquarters elsewhere.
“Tim Bradley will be fighting a Showtime-worthy opponent in the first weekend of June, even if it means moving to 147,” reveals Shaw. “I prefer to not go there, but if we have to, we will.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at [email protected].