By Jake Donovan
The reviews were mixed at best coming out of last Saturday’s junior welterweight showdown on HBO, in which Tim Bradley won by technical unanimous decision over Devon Alexander.
Most, if not all in the industry were disappointed with the fight in general, especially its anti-climactic ending.
If there were any bright spots to come out the evening, it’s that Bradley once again proved that he stands in the way between any fighter and junior welterweight supremacy.
In that regard, the feedback was positive from most observers – even those not directly involved with his career.
The closest that Bob Arum came to being connected with last weekend’s fight was the possibility of the winner – or perhaps even the loser - one day facing Manny Pacquiao. But that didn’t stop the Hall of Fame promoter from going on record with BoxingScene.com's Michael Marley in a recent article, speaking on the possibility of one day promoting Bradley, if and when the Californian becomes a promotional free agent.
Apparently, he wasn’t the only promoter upon whom Bradley left a favorable impression.
“Timothy Bradley always comes to fight,” observed Oscar de la Hoya, the former multi-division champion and now president of Golden Boy Promotions. “He has a lot to offer in and out of the ring. He’s a genuinely nice guy outside the ring.
“Inside the ring, he always knows how to get the job done. That’s what he did on Saturday. It wasn’t the prettiest of fights but the Desert Storm always rises to the occasion, and got the job done.”
In order to get the job done, Bradley was forced to subscribe to the old notion of ‘win today, look good the next time.’ Against whom that next time comes is unknown at the moment.
The frontrunner would appear to be Amir Khan, who is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Such a fight would undoubtedly declare junior welterweight supremacy - the type of fight that de la Hoya believes needs to happen.
“Naturally, Amir believes he is the best 140 lb. fighter in the world,” de la Hoya declares, but not before adding his own thoughts on the subject. “However, the only way to prove it is for the best to continue to fight the best.
“All of these guys will fight each other. HBO has done a tremendous job in getting together all of the best 140 lb. fighters in the world, and now it’s up to the best to fight each other.”
The statement is a continuation of a pledge made late last year – perhaps even a resolution, considering its timing – by de la Hoya for his company to continue to work in the best interest of the sport, which means making the very best fights possible once in high demand.
Some have called into question whether or not the timing was right for Bradley and Alexander to square off when they did. Alexander had only begun to develop as an attraction in his St. Louis hometown, while Bradley was always viewed more as a TV fighter than a local attraction.
The question, though, is when such a fight would’ve transformed into a big event. It’s possible that such day never comes, which is why de la Hoya is included among those who believes that the fight happened at the right time.
“Big fights lead to big events. There’s always a time for everything. The fight public is itching for the fights to happen. When you get the best fighters in the ring, everybody wins.”
Case in point: Alexander is coming off of his first pro loss and a career-worst performance to date. However, the risk of taking on Bradley when he did comes with the reward with a return bout on HBO.
The pessimist refers to such deal as a safety net, not unlike when a fighter takes on a particular challenge with the promise of an immediate rematch in the event of a loss.
Alexander is assured a future slot on HBO, but the choice of opposition will come at the network’s discretion, as evidenced by its decision to pass on a rematch of last weekend’s fight. The lack of action or even a conclusive ending made that call a no-brainer, and there’s little reason to suggest that Alexander will be matched soft in his next network appearance.
His three bouts on HBO to date have all come against Top 10 opposition – two current titlists at the time of the fight (Bradley and Juan Urango) and a former one in Andriy Kotelnik.
Suffice to say, he earned the right to be matched against Bradley, even if he ultimately fell short in the one that mattered most.
The bout with Urango was among the first in a series of 140 lb. fights put together by HBO, who at the time had the vision of marketing the last man standing as a viable future option for either Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather. Both fighters not only serve as the best in the world, but also by far the biggest attractions the sport currently has to offer.
The winner of this unofficial 140 lb. tournament won’t quite reach that level of popularity, but will well on his way towards emerging as a boxing superstar.
Even with two of his horses in the race – Khan and Marcos Maidana, who fell just short against Khan in their 12-round war last December – de la Hoya sees no reason why Bradley can’t one day reach that level.
“That’s who the Desert Storm is, someone who always rises to the occasion. The one thing about Bradley is that he has the speed and the different angles. Because of his speed and his will to win, I believe that he will be one of those fighters that can - who knows, maybe he will go undefeated for the rest of his career.”
Once upon a time, the same whispers surrounded Mayweather’s career. How much longer the undefeated welterweight king remains in the sport – if he comes back at all – remains to be seen.
If and when he returns, the first fighter that will be mentioned will of course be Pacquiao. Assuming that fight isn’t yet pieced together, de la Hoya would love to convince his old in-ring rival to give Bradley serious consideration.
“It’s always nice to see two great undefeated Americans going at it - everyone’s dream,” believes de la Hoya, placing emphasis on the term ‘great.’
Bradley’s last three opponents – Alexander, Luis Carlos Abregu and Lamont Peterson – were unbeaten before falling short against the finely sculpted Californian. What was missing in all three fights was the presence of greatness as well as mainstream appeal.
A showdown with Mayweather would take care of both parts of that formula.
“Floyd is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Even though he hasn’t been active, he’s still the best. But that fight would have to be Mayweather’s decision. He’s his own boss. He says when, where and with whom and everyone stands up and makes it happen.”
Without a true promotional interest in either fighter, de la Hoya could only hope and wish for such fights to happen.
That dynamic could change in the near future. It has been widely documented that Bradley’s contract with promoter Gary Shaw is due to expire following his next fight, which in turn was a one-fight extension to which Bradley agreed in order to secure the fight with Alexander.
A lot is being read into his pending free agent status. There’s no guarantee that he bolts the moment the contract runs out, nor is there any certainty that he re-ups with Shaw.
As has become commonplace in the sport, the first two promoters that come to mind these days the moment a fighter is in the market is Top Rank and Golden Boy.
Promoter Bob Arum is already on record in expressing serious interest in Bradley, though largely under the presumption that he doesn’t renew his contract with Shaw. Until then, all bets are off, as the Top Rank head honcho is taking a wait-and-see approach.
Though Top Rank and Golden Boy agree on very little these days, they both share the same view on the proper distance to maintain while Bradley is still under contract.
“Whoever is a free agent… if he’s a great talent, then we’re interested. But that only goes for free agents. Gary Shaw has done a wonderful job with Bradley. I have to tip my hat to him. He has a fighter who wants to always wants to fight the best, which is what the sport should be all about.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]