Tonight at 9:45 pm EST, HBO World Championship Boxing returns with a doubleheader from the StubHub Center in Carson, California, as former two-division titleholder Timothy Bradley Jr (31-1-1, 12 KO) returns to take on Jessie Vargas (26-0, 9 KO) in the main event.
Bradley, 31, had a rough 2014, losing a rematch to Manny Pacquiao in April and then going to a draw with Diego Chaves in December, though most observers felt Bradley had deserved the win in that bout. But in 2013, Bradley participated in the Fight of the Year, beating Ruslan Provodnikov, and then legitimately defeated Juan Manuel Marquez, so despite some trouble in his last two, he's not far removed from being considered one of the top fighters out there.
Vargas, 26, will be looking to make a big statement as he returns to the welterweight division, following a strong stint at 140, where in 2014 he scored wins over Khabib Allakhverdiev, Anton Novikov, and Antonio DeMarco. A win for Vargas will shoot him right into contention at 147.
Tonight's co-feature will see rising super featherweight star Oscar Valdez (15-0, 14 KO) take on gatekeeper Ruben Tamayo (25-5-4, 17 KO).
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Timothy Bradley Jr def. Jessie Vargas by unanimous decision (116-112, 117-111, 115-112)
Oscar Valdez def. Ruben Tamayo by unanimous decision (98-90, 98-90, 99-90)
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ROUND BY ROUND
TIMOTHY BRADLEY JR vs JESSIE VARGAS
Round 1: Bradley goes to the body early when Vargas tries to throw in close, and Vargas goes back outside and starts to jab. Bradley trying to make this an aggressive inside fight, Vargas knows that's not the best idea for himself. Bradley targeting the body again. Good right hand from Bradley at the end of the round as Vargas throws a hook to the body. Bradley 10-9
Round 2: Bradley coming out aggressively again, but Vargas stings him with a left hook about 45 seconds into the round. Bradley jabbing now, having to reach as he's the shorter man. Bradley has slowed after that hook. Left hand and a right from Vargas, then a body shot from Bradley. Vargas keeping the range he wants a lot more effectively this round. Vargas with a short right upstairs, then a hook to the body as Bradley tries to bullrush him. Body shots from Bradley, then an up-jab. This is fun. Vargas 10-9, 19-19
Round 3: Another fun round, with Bradley's aggression outshining Vargas' attempts to box intelligently. Bradley's just doing the more damage, or at least in theory he is. I saw this round for Tim. Bradley 10-9, 29-28
Round 4: Bradley out fast in round 4, too, throwing big shots and imposing his will. Good right from Bradley with Vargas backed to the ropes. Vargas catches Bradley going wild with a nice right hand. This is a nice clash of styles between a couple guys who aren't punchers but often will fight like they are. Bradley with body shots near the end of the round. Bradley 10-9, 39-37
Round 5: Bradley starting to really take over this fight, I think. His pressure and relentlessness is giving Vargas some doubts, and Jessie just doesn't look confident in himself. Bradley WINGING shots at the end of the round, and he even gets clipped with a couple good shots back. Bradley 10-9, 49-46
Round 6: Yeah, Bradley's starting to outclass Vargas a little. Jessie mixes it up some at the end of the round, but you can really tell who's been at the top of the sport and who hasn't. Bradley's just a better fighter in the first half of this one. It's a good fight, but Tim's running away with it by my eye. Bradley 10-9, 59-55
Round 7: This is reminding me of Bradley vs Lamont Peterson. Like Peterson, Vargas is competitive and in the fight, and doing some good work, but Bradley is better, out-working him, and muscling him. This is a big round for Bradley. He's wearing Vargas out. Bradley 10-9, 69-64
Round 8: Vargas did some good work this round, and Bradley was a bit too reckless, getting clipped here and there and not landing enough. Bradley was just off here and there enough for Vargas to take this round for me. Vargas 10-9, Bradley 78-74
Round 9: Bradley just keeps going forward, even seemingly trying to hold back a bit more. And Vargas fighting on his back foot isn't doing much for him. This is sort of a reality check fight for Vargas -- he's been solid and looked like he can hang most of this fight, but Bradley is a big step up from the sort of guys Vargas has beaten before. Bradley's defense a little better this round, too. Vargas needs to do something big from here, I think. He's just not aggressive enough to beat Bradley. Bradley 10-9, 88-83
Round 10: Bradley works and chips away the whole round, taking another one. Vargas looking a little dejected going back to the corner. Bradley 10-9, 98-92
Round 11: Both guys with some solid work this round, and I edge it just barely to Bradley. I am now mostly concerned with what the score cards are going to look like, but I think Tim has put in the work to win this fight decisively. Bradley 10-9, 108-101
Round 12: Vargas not fighting like he's looking for the knockout, which by my eye he definitely needs. Bradley moving a lot more last round and this one, but landing a little, too. Vargas DRILLS Bradley with a clean right hand and Bradley is out on his feet but ON HIS FEET! Pat Russell thinks he hears the bell and Vargas thinks he's got a TKO win, but he doesn't. This is a completely blown call by Pat Russell. Huge mistake that takes Vargas' only chance at a win, perhaps. 10 seconds is 10 seconds. Vargas 10-9, Bradley 117-111
OSCAR VALDEZ vs RUBEN TAMAYO
Round 1: Fairly simple first round for Valdez as he picks and pecks away at Tamayo, then there's what appears to be a trip, but ruled a knockdown. So Tamayo gets a 10-8. Tamayo 10-8
Round 2: Valdez unhappy with the knockdown scored against him, so he's coming out with serious purpose in round two. Tamayo is looking to score with his right hook, but Valdez is just a lot more accurate. Valdez gets squared up looking for a left hook, and he gets one in, but Tamayo rolls with it a little bit. Little body shots from Tamayo. Valdez landing his right upstairs. Valdez with a nice right hand near the end of the round. Valdez 10-9, Tamayo 19-18
Round 3: Valdez standing in the pocket and throwing, landing shots. Tamayo with a right hook, but it's answered right back. Other than the half-knockdown, this has been all Valdez, really. Valdez very accurate, landing to the head quite a bit and fairly easily. Gotta be a high percentage. Tamayo isn't able to get off or land much when he does. Valdez with a little body work. Valdez 10-9, 28-28
Round 4: What would we call this? "Soft domination"? He's not exactly clubberin' Tamayo to pieces in there, but he's handily winning the fight and doing some gradual damage. Valdez has a nice stylish look with his hair. Good hair. Valdez 10-9, 38-37
Round 5: Tamayo's taking a lot of shots in there, and he's landing here and there, including a couple lefts early in the round. But Valdez is still in control, and landing more punches. Tamayo with a solid body shot that stings Valdez a little bit. Not a bad round for Tamayo, probably his best of the fight, but he's still not winning it with 40 seconds left. And he doesn't steal it. Valdez 10-9, 48-46
Round 6: Tamayo continuing to do some decent work. Valdez is looking like a good prospect, but there are a lot of fixes that need addressed. That's not a bad thing, but Valdez isn't looking to be streaking toward a title based on this fight. You could argue for Tamayo this round, maybe. Valdez 10-9, 58-55
Round 7: Tamayo goes low again and gets a point taken. He's not been outrageous with it, but he's strayed a few too many times for the referee's liking, and has been appropriately warned. Fight continues as it has been going. Valdez 10-9, -1 for Tamayo, 68-63
Round 8: Tamayo continuing to stray low, gets another warning. He's just trying to go to the body and not very accurate about it. Valdez landing some more solid shots in this round. His power isn't showing up like advertised tonight, but he's had some nice head movement and he has good feet. Tamayo with a good body shot. Valdez 10-9, 78-72
Round 9: Tamayo is not going to win and he's not winning this round. Valdez 10-9, 88-81
Round 10: Valdez coming out looking to do something impressive, maybe even score a knockout. Valdez smacking away but not sure these are more than arm punches at this point, either. A good performance for Valdez, even without a stoppage. Valdez 10-9, 98-90