After his successful if criticized Top Rank debut on Saturday night, junior welterweight titleholder Timothy Bradley is now hoping to land a big-time fight against one of boxing's top names. Here's what he told BoxingScene.com about four guys who are on his wish list:
"Like I said, I want to fight all the best fighters in the world pound for pound. Whether it’s Manny Pacquiao, or Marquez, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Amir Khan. Whoever."
Let's take a little glance at those four fights and assess the value in them, financially and for boxing fans who just like good fights, and how Bradley might fare against these guys. It's not like the Casamayor fight on Saturday taught us anything new, but Bradley's 10-month layoff didn't seem to bother him, and he's a known quantity with good wins, still considered by most (I believe) to be the No. 1 140-pound fighter in the sport.
Bradley vs Manny Pacquiao
Financial Value: It's a Manny Pacquiao fight, so the money's there. Bradley was put into the Pacquiao co-feature in part to audition as a potential Manny opponent in 2012. I don't think he changed many minds, but he also didn't hurt his stock. And with people who didn't know him already, and didn't know Casamayor was a lousy opponent in 2011 (that's probably a lot of people, by the way), I'm sure he was impressive. He did his job. It's not a huge mega-fight, but Pacquiao has fought Joshua Clottey and a version of Shane Mosley that nobody wanted to see. They sold because of Manny. He can carry Tim Bradley to a profitable event, no doubt.
Fan Value: I get the feeling it's 50-50 here. I have seen a lot of folks who think Tim is a real good style matchup for Manny. I've seen others who believe he lacks the "specialness" to be a serious threat to Pacquiao.
The Fight Itself: Bradley is a very good fighter who isn't afraid to take a shortcut or get rough. Pacquiao doesn't have to deal with that sort of thing often, and I think Bradley might be able to frustrate Manny simply because Bradley doesn't make himself easy to fight. What Tim lacks in physical skills (not a big puncher, not incredibly fast with his hands) he often makes up for in ring IQ and his ability to use his head. With the way Pacquiao often leads with his own head -- Nacho Beristain made an issue of this on "24/7" -- that could result in some ugly clashes. I'd favor Manny, personally, but Bradley is one of those quiet, effective guys who tends to sneak up.
Chances It Happens: I think there are two fights in the way -- Manny vs Floyd, if both sides are serious about making it happen, and then Manny vs Marquez IV. But if Manny-Floyd stays a no-go and Marquez passes on a fourth fight, Bradley is perhaps next in line.
Bradley vs Floyd Mayweather Jr
Financial Value: See the Pacquiao section. Same thing, except replace "Joshua Clottey" and "Shane Mosley" with "Victor Ortiz" and "Juan Manuel Marquez." Not perfect comparisons, but guys Floyd was able to carry in the promotion. He could do the same with Bradley. No reason he couldn't.
Fan Value: No idea. I don't think many have even considered this fight enough to want it or to say they don't want it. Depends on how they could talk it up, I guess.
The Fight Itself: I could see this one getting dirty as all get out. Floyd's elbows vs Bradley's billy goat head. In other words, I think I might love this fight if it gets really chippy.
Chances It Happens: Very low. Bradley is with Top Rank, and Top Rank and Mayweather don't do business. If they're going to, it will be for Manny Pacquiao. I can't see another fight being rich enough for Arum and Floyd to work together.
Bradley vs Juan Manuel Marquez
Financial Value: HBO main event, but nothing more.
Fan Value: Bradley says he's wanted to fight Marquez since 2009, and I think with Marquez going for a fourth title at 140 in a potential fight with Bradley, there'd be some interest. Marquez is still very smart and very effective, but Bradley is younger, physically strong if not a big puncher, and has great stamina. I think a lot of boxing fans would find this one intriguing on paper.
The Fight Itself: I'd expect it to be very good, actually, and a 50-50 fight for me right now.
Chances It Happens: Depends on what Marquez wants to do. He'd get a lot more money to fight Manny again, perhaps more to fight Erik Morales or Brandon Rios, and it's a question of what weight he wants to fight at next, too, if he fights at all. I bet Top Rank would love to make the fight -- if Bradley won and looked good doing it, it'd be a big boost for him with Marquez's name value so hot now.
Bradley vs Amir Khan
Financial Value: HBO main event. Has real UK TV value with Sky Sports back in the Khan game, as well. Plus they've built enough of a media grudge that I think the fight is legit as a 1 vs 2 matchup and as a truly significant fight. Not huge, but a high-end HBO main event.
Fan Value: Seems like most people would still like to see it. Khan supporters really think Khan would win, and that Bradley ducked him in July. Bradley supporters really think he'd knock Khan out. Both have built up a section of the fanbase that is sick of hearing them talk after their trading of words this year. That's important, too.
The Fight Itself: Personally, I still think this is the fight for both of them. Timothy Bradley and Amir Khan have basically cleared out the 140-pound division and been left as the two men standing. I know Khan is eager to move to 147 and chase a fight with Mayweather himself, but Bradley vs Khan seems like business that needs to be settled. Action-wise, I'd guess for a decent fight if nothing spectacular, and it's another 50-50 bout. Both have advantages, both have weaknesses the other can exploit.
Chances It Happens: Decent, but I think other possibilities might have to be eliminated first. It almost happened already, and I think it's a big enough and good enough fight for Top Rank and Golden Boy to work together. Would depend on Khan's ego (for the split) and how much risk everyone wants to take. Bradley is on the Pacquiao radar, and Khan is on the Mayweather radar. That's not something they'll want to jeopardize without being properly compensated.