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Breakdown: Timothy Bradley vs Diego Chaves

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Tim Bradley returns to take on Diego Chaves tomorrow night on HBO. Samuel Chen breaks down the matchup.

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A Bit of Backstory

Poor Timothy Bradley. No matter how hard he fights, or how many top contenders he beats, he'll always be remembered as "that guy who was gifted Manny Pacquiao's belt in one of the worst judging mistakes of all time". Bradley may have technically lost twice to Pacquiao, but that does not take away from the fact that he is one of the best fighters at 140 and 147 pounds. Bradley was dominant at light-welterweight, and despite being an undersized when he moved up to welterweight, outworked and beat a number of top welterweights like Ruslan Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez, who had just come off a career-defining, highlight reel knockout of Manny Pacquiao. Bradley can outbox lengthier opponents and brawl with bigger men, beating them at their own games to prove that he is a legitimate, top-tier fighter, and yet he is still despised by many for a controversial decision two years ago.

Diego Chaves is probably best known for being one of the victims of rising prospect Keith Thurman's warpath. The heavy-handed Argentinian was the former WBA interim welterweight beltholder and threw heavy leather with Thurman before finally succumbing to a brutal right hand after a hellish flurry against the ropes. In his most recent bout, Chaves was arguably winning against the tough Brandon Rios (he was ahead on two of three scorecards) before being disqualified in a fight that was dirtier than a hoarder's living room.

Styles: Strengths and Weaknesses

Timothy Bradley

Timothy Bradley is one of the most cerebral and fundamentally sound boxers in the division...unless he gets carried away, but we'll get to that.

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Counter, stick, and move, baby. Hit without getting hit. Swim without getting wet.

This sequence shows you what Bradley could be like if he sticks to a game plan and keep a level head, crisp technique, great defense, and good range control. His opponent, Marquez, is one of the most fearsome natural counterpunchers in boxing today, and Bradley, when he was focused, was able to avoid a lot of damage. First seeing Marquez load up on an uppercut when he ducks in close, Bradley blocks with his elbows and immediately ducks underneath Marquez's followup left hook. At the same time, he uses his recovering momentum to tag Marquez with a right cross and circle out of harms way. Knowing that Marquez will look to counter, Bradley flicks out a jab and immediately slips to the right, staying *mostly* outside of Marquez's counter left uppercut before jabbing in again and backstepping away from a counter right. Bradley was able to anticipate the counters quickly enough to react and neutralize most of Marquez's output when he kept focus. Very slick stuff.

Defensively, Bradley will use a shell guard when he is more actively looking for counters. He has very good reactions and can actively predict the paths of many combinations thrown at him.

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Bradley (green camo trunks) avoids Marquez's punches along the ropes

Similar to Mayweather, Bradley keep his right hand high to block anything that swings from the right and shoulder roll to guard his left. If he finds space to counter, he will typically look to throw a right cross off of the shell, otherwise he'll back off and create more distance.

Timothy Bradley is a great fighter, but he is very susceptible to his temper. Oftentimes when Bradley gets caught in the middle of throwing a combination, Bradley will charge in swinging with reckless abandon.

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In this sequence, Bradley, keeping his right hand high to protect his side when he goes for a long uppercut, gets countered by a left hook from Marquez on the way in. His entire demeanor changes and he becomes overly aggressive, charging literally head-first while throwing uncharacteristically long looping hooks, which cause him to take much more damage than usual because he doesn't maintain a proper guard. Bradley's recklessness nearly got him knocked out when he faced the hard-nosed brawler Ruslan Provodnikov. Bradley stood toe to toe early on with the powerful Russian and was staggered and hurt badly several times in the early rounds. His coaches were eventually able to convince him to stop brawling and start boxing, and Bradley was able to land consistently with more volume and pulled a grueling close decision win. Timothy Bradley is durable, and he has a great heart to be able to take a beating and not give up, but he does not have the power to afford to brawl in close quarters with bigger opponents.

Diego Chaves

Bradley's opponent, Diego Chaves, is a slugger. He puts his weight behind almost every shot he throws, making for some very entertaining brawls if his opponent is willing. Chaves does not have the best footwork or movement, but he does use both the high guard and shell guard.

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Chaves (white trunks) alternates between shell and high guard against Keith Thurman (blue trunks)

Chaves alternates from using a shoulder roll shell guard and a tight high guard depending on how squared up he is relative to his opponent, but he always retreats backwards in a straight line. Lacking lateral movement makes it easier for an opponent to continue to pressure and reduce the space Chaves has to reset and counter, cutting off offensive opportunities, especially against an opponent as mobile as Timothy Bradley.

One thing Chaves does very well is the right uppercut counter to an opponent trying to close the distance.

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In this sequence, Keith Thurman overcommits on his right hand and attempts to roll out, but Chaves uses left hook to bring Thurman's head in line with his right uppercut before he pivots out the left side. Thurman once again tried to time a lead right hand and roll under what he thinks would be a counter hook, and ducks straight into another uppercut. Thurman later sets up a right straight to the body with a jab and moves out of range before Chaves can counter with an uppercut.

Chaves has to tools necessary to threaten Bradley if he can draw the former champion into a brawl. The Argentinian has a few tricks that make him dangerous to an overcommitted opponent. Bradley's ability to keep his cool will determine the type of fight this bout will be; if he remains calm, he'll play matador to Chaves' bull. If he gets angry, it could turn into a close ranged shootout.

What To Look For

Bradley promised in interviews that he would take a more cerebral approach for this fight, and if he does, we'll see the tight, technical, boxer Bradley. As much as I like a good brawl as anyone, if Timothy Bradley is able to stick to his plan and focus on outboxing Chaves, he will pick up an easy decision win. The man is too technically sound and too fast for the Argentinian slugger. If Bradley indulges in a less technical brawl, I feel that he is mature enough to refocus after eating a Chaves uppercut. Chaves is just not on the same level as the former champion.