By Mike Sloan: When Timothy Bradley was awarded a decision win over Manny Pacquiao last June, the overwhelming majority of the boxing world erupted into chaos. Most thought that Bradley won only a handful of rounds against the Filipino superstar; to give him the overall nod was deemed ludicrous. That wasn’t the case on Saturday in Las Vegas when he handed Juan Manuel Marquez a loss via split decision.
Unlike the Pacquiao fight, which ignited a firestorm of vitriol toward the ringside judges and the sport of boxing as a whole, Bradley’s triumph over the Mexican legend was justified. The fight was close – many of the rounds could have gone to either man – but Bradley was more convincing in the rounds where there was a clear-cut victor. He stuck his left jab in Marquez’ face all fight long and his movement was superb. Bradley didn’t befuddle Marquez in the same manner that Floyd Mayweather did back in 2009, but he out-boxed him over the allotted twelve rounds and deserved the win.
Some who sat ringside scored the fight a draw and fewer had it in favor of Marquez, but the general consensus inside the Thomas & MackCenter and on social media was that Bradley did enough to win and retain his unblemished professional ledger. Immediately following his triumph, though, all thoughts shifted toward his future and what it would potentially bring.
Bradley loudly and honestly boasted that his win over Marquez automatically punched his ticket into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He is the only man who holds wins over both Pacquiao and Marquez, but when he first made those claims, it seemed ridiculous to think that he belonged in the same hallowed halls as Ray Robinson, Henry Armstrong, Joe Louis and Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
But when looking closer at his resume, “Desert Storm” has quietly built a case to reinforce his argument, though it’s still on somewhat unsteady ground. He holds wins over Devon Alexander, Lamont Peterson and Luis Abregu while they were still unbeaten and highly-touted contenders. He’s also toppled the likes of Nate Campbell, Joel Casamayor and Junior Witter, though the trio was past their prime. Add to the mix his thrilling win over Ruslan Provodnikov earlier this year in what could be the fight of the year, and Bradley has made a strong case for his eventual enshrinement in Canastota.
Obviously, it’s a bit too early to say that Bradley is a surefire Hall of Famer. If he was to retire today and never fight again, one would be hard-pressed to cast a vote in his favor, especially on the first ballot. Then again, he has yet to officially taste defeat and he holds wins over at least three automatic Hall inductees. So while it’s a bit premature to suggest that his win over Marquez made him a lock to be enshrined, he’s already amassed a career that is better than some of those already inducted like Kostya Tszyu (who really only had one signature win – unbeaten Zab Judah), Virgil Hill and – gasp – Ingemar Johnasson.
So, is Bradley a Hall of Fame entrant based on his win over Marquez and all he’s accomplished beforehand? It’s debatable right now, but it’s not out of the question. And, for the record, if he continues toppling opponents on the level of Marquez and Pacquiao, Bradley will not only be a surefire Hall of Famer, but also considered among the best of his generation. He still has a way to go in order for that to occur, which leads to the next topic: Mayweather.
Bradley stated that he wants to fight only the best in the world and that obviously includes Floyd Mayweather. They are essentially in the same weight class and considering that “Money” Mayweather will eventually run out of viable opponents before he calls it a career in a few years, Bradley is clearly someone that should be an option. While the world still clamors for Mayweather to finally lock horns with Pacquiao, the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter has plenty of elite-level opponents with whom to face.
For starters, yours truly suggested that Mayweather fight Sergio Martinez. After that, foes such as Danny Garcia, Brandon Rios, Mike Alvarado, Provonikov and, of course Pacquiao should all be considered viable options. Though it appears that Mayweather will likely be wasting everybody’s time and energy on Amir Khan in May, Bradley has proven himself worthy enough a contender and champion to get a crack at his undisputed title.
One fly in the ointment of a potential Mayweather-Bradley fight is one of utmost importance: Bradley is virtually an unknown commodity. Aside from the boxing community, nobody knows who he is or what he looks like. His name might as well be Edward Jenkins the Accountant and it wouldn’t make a difference. He was the opponent for Pacquiao and this past weekend, it was all about Marquez driving the ship. He’d play the same role against Mayweather, much like Victor Ortiz and Robert Guerrero did before him. Would Bradley pose a more serious threat to Mayweather than both Ortiz and Guerrero combined? Absolutely. But the promoters and Showtime would have to work overtime to convince the general public that Bradley is the guy who can finally snatch that zero from Floyd’s won-loss record.
When all things are considered, Bradley should take on one more opponent -- hopefully as the co-feature on Mayweather’s next mega event – and it should be against Garcia. Both have proven themselves worthy enough to fight only the best of the best. Whoever survives that battle should be the lone man to get a crack at Mayweather next September because a fight with Martinez is doubtful. Unless, of course, a Pacquiao fight with either Mayweather or Bradley becomes a reality first.
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