Junior welterweight Timothy Bradley is universally respected as one of the best in the world in his weight class, and many feel he's already one of the better fighters, pound-for-pound in the entire sport.
But Bradley, 27, has not become a major star anywhere but in the minds of TV people. The Palm Springs, Calif., native has become a familiar name to those who watch lots of boxing, but has never been able to draw a house, even pushed heavily as a top fighter, which he has been since beating Junior Witter in 2008 in Nottingham.
Bradley's contract with promoter Gary Shaw has been widely publicized as expiring on June 30, and there appears to be little chance he'll re-sign with the man who, if nothing else, did make him a TV main eventer on both Showtime and HBO. And Top Rank's Bob Arum tells Lem Satterfield that he thinks he can make Bradley a star:
"There is no secret that if that contract expires, and he's a free agent, we want Tim Bradley very badly for our program. I think that he's one of the top fighters. I think that we can build him into a major attraction and I just think that he has not been promoted as well as he might be."
Bradley (27-0, 11 KO) could be a viable 2012 opponent for Manny Pacquiao, as Top Rank is running out of in-house options to the point that they've plucked aging one-off opponents for both Pacquiao fights in 2011. First, they picked up 39-year-old Shane Mosley from Golden Boy, and just recently did the same for the soon-to-be 38-year-old Juan Manuel Marquez. They gave both Mosley and Marquez terrific deals for the fights, so I'm certainly not "blaming" them, but Top Rank is running low on competitive opponents, or even just big names. Without some new blood for Manny, they might have to start recycling, and I get the impression they'd prefer to not go that route.
It does seem likely that Bradley is headed to Top Rank, but remember that rumors had Golden Boy very interested in him late last year, too. There will be more than one bidder for Bradley's services.
Can Top Rank (or Golden Boy) make Bradley a major star? Does he have that sort of appeal?