By Jake Donovan
Timothy Bradley and Diego Chaves are both in need of a win, especially on a weekend where the welterweight division takes center stage.
There are no fewer than three significant bouts in the weight class in Las Vegas alone, in addition to Floyd Mayweather grabbing headlines in addressing ongoing “discussion” for a long-awaited showdown with Manny Pacquiao.
Around the welterweight division, there was also Erislandy Lara defending his 154 lb. belt Friday evening in a decision win over Ishe Smith in San Antonio. Mauricio Herrera puts his 140 lb. belt on the line versus Jose Benavidez, in a supporting bout to Bradley-Chaves, which tops an HBO-televised tripleheader from The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
All of that adds up to Bradley and Chaves not just needing a win, but making sure the boxing world remembers what they did in the ring.
Chaves was remembered for all of the wrong reasons in his last fight. The Argentine brawler had to wade through political red tape just to get his travel visa approved in order to make it to Vegas with barely three days to spare before his August 2 clash with Brandon Rios at the very same hosting venue as tonight’s headliner.
While his efforts were celebrated throughout fight week, the bout itself was a forgettable, foul-filled affair. Referee Vic Drakulich lost control early on, with their bout quickly imploding before Chaves was abruptly disqualified in the ninth round. The loss was his second in the span of three fights, as he is remembered in a far more favorable light for his valiant-in-defeat efforts versus Keith Thurman in their fun shootout last July.
Bradley rose to prominence in 2008, traveling to jolly old England in unseating Junior Witter for a piece of the 140 lb. crown. The sculpted Californian went on to unify against Devon Alexander – who faces Amir Khan on a competing show tonight, down the strip at the MGM Grand – before eventually moving up to the welterweight division.
That’s where the fun began, even if his first shot at stardom produced dubious results.
An unpopular split decision win over Pacquiao in their June ’12 clash sparked worldwide debate, casting Bradley in a negative light despite officially winning the fight and remaining unbeaten. A pair of big wins in 2013 went a long way towards reminding fans that he’s actually one of the good guys of the sport – an off-the-canvas points win over Ruslan Provodnikov last March in the 2013 Fight of the Year, and a close but clear win over Marquez last October.
The success of a career-best year paved the way for a lucrative rematch with Pacquiao. Bradley suffered the first official loss of his career on that April night, but now back in action as he aims to work his way back to the top of the welterweight heap.
Read on to see how the staff at BoxingScene.com believes Saturday’s welterweight action goes down in Las Vegas.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: TIMOTHY BRADLEY vs. DIEGO CHAVES
Ryan Burton (Bradley UD): “I expect Bradley to abandon the tactics he tried in his rematch against Pacquiao and put in a performance similar to what he had against Juan Manuel Marquez.”
Jake Donovan (Bradley UD): “Bradley tends to fight to the level of his opposition, which tells me this one could very well wind up a repeat of Rios-Chaves. I’ll be optimistic and say that it goes the full distance or at least without either fighter getting disqualified. Bradley is way too skilled for a crude brawler like Chaves and should win a comfortable decision, providing lessons were learned from the Provodnikov fight.”
Keith Idec (Bradley UD): “Experience has taught Bradley to avoid slugfests against punchers. Assuming the ever-brave Bradley resists those temptations, particularly early in this fight, he should be able to out-box the slower Chaves and win pretty comfortably. Bradley also must be careful not to allow the rugged Chaves to make this a rough, physical fight because it’s the only chance Chaves has to make it the type of ugly brawl he can win.”
Steve Kim (Bradley UD): “Bradley does what he does, find ways to win in different ways. The Desert Storm on points.”
John MacDonald (Bradley UD): “If Tim Bradley sticks to his boxing, he'll win a wide decision. If he chooses to throw caution to the wind, as he did against Provodnikov, then all bets are off.”
Cliff Rold (Bradley Dec.): “Some people see a battle coming. It's more likely Bradley boxes and wins this going away. Too quick, too experienced.”
Reynaldo Sanchez (Bradley TKO8): “Bradley wants to be in front of the line one more time. After his loss to Pacquiao, he fell a few spots from the top. Chaves showed everybody he’s just a journeyman versus Brandon Rios.”
Alexey Sukachev (Bradley UD): “In my opinion, Chaves is a basic fighter, good when it comes to rumbling against sluggers. Against fleet-footed boxers he will let his fans down. And if Bradley ain't stupid (and he ain't - like it may have seemed against Provodnikov), he will make it a long night for the Argentinean and win even easier than against Abregu in 2010.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox