Who'd have thunk it? Timothy Bradley, 24 years old and in his first pro fight outside of his home state of California, beat Junior Witter via split decision in Nottingham to win the WBC junior welterweight title.
The split decision was a little bit ridiculous, and had Witter won, I would've counted it as highway robbery. I scored it 117-110 for Bradley, who largely dominated the fight against an aged-looking, unmotivated-seeming, totally ineffective Witter, widely regarded as (at worst) the world's second-best 140-pound fighter.
Bradley was awarded the mandatory shot at Witter's WBC crown when Jose Luis Castillo failed to make weight for a fight against him in Cancun. Most of us felt that Witter would dominate the unseasoned Bradley, who had never traveled more than a car ride for any pro fight. But Bradley drilled Witter in the sixth round with a massive overhand right, putting the exclamation point on his momentum grab, and taking full control of the fight.
The first five rounds were quite close, all up-in-the-air scoring affairs, and I gave Bradley three of five. If someone gave Witter the nod in four or even all of them, it's hard to argue. Eventually, it was Witter's total lack of offense that defined the fight, with Bradley pot-shotting his way to what most saw as a pretty definitive victory. A career-starting splash of a win, really.
So congratulations to young Timothy "Desert Storm" Bradley, the Palm Springs, CA, native who is your new WBC junior welterweight champion, and a rising force in the division.
The loss throws Witter into no man's land. At 34, he started looking his age, or else he just wasn't mentally ready for the tough fight, perhaps buying the hype that Bradley simply was not ready to take on someone as smart and outright terrific as Witter can be. This loss takes Junior Witter entirely out of any Ricky Hatton sweepstakes, meaning he'll likely never see the fight he's been petitioning for forever. And he's still too much of a potential spoiler to get an easy pass into lucrative bouts in the division, which is now unquestionably ruled by Hatton, with the likes of Paulie Malignaggi, power-punching Colombian Ricardo Torres, Kendall Holt, and Bradley as his chasers.
Witter will have to be lucky to find him self as anything more than a regional star like Andreas Kotelnik or Souleymane M'baye at this point. He could possibly find a fight with Kotelnik (who would be attempting to avenge a loss to Witter), but any big-money, international sort of affair is now out of the question. It's a little unjust and more than a bit unfair, but Witter is too good to walk into high-profile fights without a title.
On this night, Timothy Bradley outboxed him over 12 rounds, and did so with aplomb. He deserves all the credit in the world. Witter's punches seemed to lack pop, and his offensive gameplan was simply to wait. The sixth round knockdown showed him waiting just a bit too much, and overall, the fight itself did the same.
Also in Nottingham, super middleweight contender Carl Froch improved to 23-0 with his 19th knockout, taking out late substitute Albert Rybacki in the fourth round via TKO. Froch is the mandatory to Joe Calzaghe, who is now at 175 and will almost certainly never fight Froch, who will nonetheless spend the next couple of years calling Calzaghe out. He'd be better off just focusing on the realistic, perhaps a fight with titlist Lucian Bute, former titleholder Mikkel Kessler, or "titlist" Anthony Mundine.