Welterweight Timothy Bradley (31-1-1, 12 KO’s) is set to face Jessie Vargas (26-0, 9 KO’s) for the vacant WBO World welterweight title on June 27th in Carson, California, and spoke with FightHype.com at the press conference to announce the event.
Bradley forsook the rhetoric we usually hear during such encounters in favour of a frank assessment of the top level of the sport as it stands today, and his position within it. He was asked, in light of the apparently imminent retirement of boxing’s premier attraction in Floyd Mayweather Jr, whether he would be able to ‘fill the void’ that will be left in his absence.
“No absolutely not, no way. You can’t fill the void, no one’s gon’ be able to fill that void when Mayweather leaves. Mayweather was the biggest name in boxing, still is at this time. When he leaves there’s other upcoming stars that’s gonna make they mark and probably become the next Floyd, the next big guy or whatever.”
The stars referred to can be found in the east.
“You got Triple-G [WBA Super World middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin] whose on the rise and rising fast. He’s knocking out everybody; he’s boxing really good and I don’t see a lot of guys in his weight class that can beat him. Triple-G’s gonna have to even go up or go down [in weight] to get some big names.”
Triple-G has some big names in and around his division. There is Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, who is creeping his way up to middleweight from the 154 lb. class and is on a hot run himself. There is also WBC World middleweight champion Miguel Cotto who is set to defend his belt against Daniel Geale on June 6th in New York. Neither fighter looks ready to step in against Triple-G in the short-term and so he may have to jump up eight pounds for a much-called for clash of styles against the undefeated Andre Ward after a prolonged absence from the ring.
Bradley also referenced light-heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev as one who impressed him. Kovalev has showed comparable KO power to Golovkin and has unified three-quarters of his division. He only needs Adonis Stevenson’s WBC strap to complete the set, though a fight between those two has proved almost as difficult to make as Mayweather vs Pacquiao.
Following this lauding of professional colleagues Bradley turned the light on himself. The talk of future stars and what lies down the road seemed to have brought a few moments of self-reflection.
“I’m towards the back end of my career right now. I mean I’ve had a lot of great, great opportunities and great fights out there and I was able to make some money in this business. But I’m towards the back end of my career due to the fact that I’m getting older, my body’s starting to break down on me, I don’t take care of myself like I should between fights. So my window’s closing. I probably got a couple of years left then it’s a possibility you probably see me out of the game.”
Bradley has cut an intense, yet marginalised figure over these last few years. He should have been elevated to the top spot when he beat Manny Pacquiao – on the cards in a few observers’ minds in 2012 – but the nature of the win and Pacquiao’s almost celestial status combined to place him in a rather unsavoury category for the Filipino’s army of fans. According to Bradley, he even received death threats.
He managed to ignore such threats to go on defeat Ruslan Provodnikov in an unforgettable scrap, the damage of which left him with mobility issues in the following months; a big price to pay for anything. He soundly outpointed Juan Manuel Marquez before the Pacquiao rematch in early 2014, which he lost on points, and in a twisted sense, was probably relieved to suffer his first pro loss and get the Pacquiao saga behind him.
Bradley is in a strange spot now. He sounds like he’s ready to get out of the sport, but is still able to earn a few million with a name earned on the back of a long and brutal campaign. Even in his last fight – a draw with Diego Chaves last December – his cheekbone was smashed to pieces. I can only imagine how wearisome this game is becoming to him, but while there is still large amounts of cash to be made, the call is hard to ignore. Now, he begins the slog all over again to prepare for a fresh-faced, undefeated former world champion in Jessie Vargas. When does it end?