Bradley sees ti­tle bout as waisted op­por­tu­nity

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Greg Hadley greg.hadley@latimes.com

It’s not even July, and Ti­mothy Bradley Jr. has Christ­mas on his mind.

Specif­i­cally, the four­time world cham­pion is think­ing about Christ­mas cards. He has f ive chil­dren, and for sea­son’s greet­ings this year, he wants to send fam­ily and friends a pic­ture of all his kids, each with a ti­tle belt wrapped around the waist.

In or­der to get that f ifth ti­tle, Bradley ( 31- 1- 1, 12 knock­outs) has to best Jessie Var­gas on Satur­day night at Stub­Hub Cen­ter for the in­terim WBO wel­ter­weight cham­pi­onship in an HBO f ight. The tele­cast starts at 6: 45 p. m.

Odd­s­mak­ers have made Bradley, 31, a 4- to- 1 fa­vorite over the younger Var­gas ( 26- 0, nine KOs), who is mov­ing up a weight class af­ter spend­ing two years as a su­per- light­weight. And though Var­gas, 26, holds the WBA su­per- light­weight ti­tle, he has never faced a top- ranked op­po­nent like Bradley.

Not that that’s af­fected his con­fi­dence.

“This is what I’ve been wait­ing for for years. This op­por­tu­nity right here, to be shown world­wide, for the world to see what my abil­ity, what my tal­ent is in the box­ing ring,” Var­gas said at a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day. “Find­ing ways to make it dif- fi­cult for Tim will show them Jessie Var­gas is the real deal.”

For his part, Bradley said he has had no trou­ble stay­ing fo­cused for this fight. Be­sides his de­sire for a f ifth ti­tle, Bradley re­mem­bers be­ing in Var­gas’ po­si­tion half a decade ago and knows his op­po­nent will swing freely with noth­ing to lose.

And it’s not as if Bradley has noth­ing to prove. Af­ter be­ing un­beaten for the f irst 10 years of his pro ca­reer, Bradley lost a unan­i­mous 12round de­ci­sion to Manny Pac­quiao in April 2014, and then bat­tled to a 12- round draw against Diego Gabriel Chavez in De­cem­ber in a f ight most observers scored in Bradley’s fa­vor.

His trainer, Joel Diaz, said Bradley has three more years of world- class box­ing ahead of him. Un­der that timeline, Bradley doesn’t have too many f ights left, and he has said he wants to take on the best in the world.

Among pos­si­ble op­po­nents Bradley could face is Juan Manuel Mar­quez, whom Bradley de­feated in a con­tro­ver­sial split de­ci­sion in Oc­to­ber 2013. Bradley also said he is will­ing to move up in weight to fight un­de­feated mid­dleweight champ Gen­nady Golovkin.

When a re­porter brought up the pos­si­bil­ity of his fight­ing Floyd May­weather Jr., Bradley ac­knowl­edged that the un­beaten wel­ter­weight and su­per- wel­ter­weight champ, the world’s toprated pound- for- pound boxer, might not want to face him, but said he would be more than will­ing.

Bradley hopes to f ight again in De­cem­ber, pro­vided he does not sus­tain any in­juries tonight. But if this turns out like his last fight at Stub­Hub Cen­ter, he might not want to plan too far ahead.

In March 2013, against Rus­lan Provod­nikov, Bradley sus­tained a con­cus­sion in the f irst round and was knocked down in the f inal round, but sur­vived 12 bru­tal rounds to claim the close but unan­i­mous de­ci­sion. The bout was voted f ight of the year.

Bradley and Var­gas both seem to think tonight’s bout will go 12 rounds; nei­ther f ighter has knocked out an op­po­nent since 2011.

Bob Arum has pro­moted the f ight as a ti­tle bout, but May­weather still holds the WBO wel­ter­weight belt. Af­ter May­weather de­feated Pac­quiao in May, May­weather in­di­cated he would va­cate the ti­tle, but he is still listed on the WBO’s web­site as the of­fi­cial cham­pion.

In the co- main event tonight, Os­car Valdez ( 15- 0, 14 KOs), a two- time Olympian for Mexico, will f ight for­mer ti­tle con­tender Ruben Ta­mayo ( 25- 5- 4, 17 KOs) in a 10round feath­er­weight bout.

I saac Brekken As­so­ci­ated Press

JESSIE VAR­GAS ( 26- 0) faces Bradley in WBO ti­tle bout at Stub­Hub Cen­ter.

I saac Brekken As­so­ci­ated Press

TI­MOTHY BRADLEY JR. ( 31- 1- 1) seeks a f if th cham­pi­onship belt tonight.

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