“Are you ready for the fire? We are firemen. WE ARE FIREMEN! The heat doesn’t bother us.We live in the heat. We train in the heat. It tells us we’re ready, we’re at home, we’re where we’re supposed to be. Flames don’t intimidate us. What do we do? We control the flame. We control them. We move the flames where we want to. And then we extinguish them.”
Teddy Atlas, firing up Timothy Bradley midway through his 9th round stoppage of Brandon Rios.
If ever there was a definition for blowing smoke up someone’s ass, then you just read it. After spanking a weary and shot Brandon Rios at the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV in Las Vegas on HBO, the narrative read for another saga with Manny Pacquiao. “That’s the best Timothy Bradley I’ve ever seen,” declared Top Rank boss Bob Arum, immediately in the mood to fan the flames for a Pac/Bradley trilogy. In defending the WBO welterweight belt left behind by Floyd Mayweather, it probably made things a lot easier for Arum and more difficult for hardcore fight fans who would want to see Pacquiao face Terence Crawford, Viktor Postol or Amir Khan. Pacquiao vs. Bradley III would be very easy to make and allow the Filipino icon to snatch another world title over an opponent he’s very familiar with (more on that in a moment).
What we weren’t familiar with is the sight of Rios (33-3-1, 24KO) on the canvas or an actual Bradley stoppage — which came out of no where in the 9th round. Bradley (33-1-1, 13KO) began taking Rios apart the minute he showed up at the weigh-in looking like an emaciated victim of Guantanamo Bay torture and starvation. It was reminiscent of how he looked while struggling to make lightweight for Richard Abril and John Murray.
A gaunt and dreadful Rios barely made weight and showed an enhanced state of sluggishness at the opening bell. That tends to happen when a fighter re-hydrates to an unfathomable 170lbs on fight night. To underscore just how terrible Rios looked, he appeared every bit as shot as Mike Alvarado was when he annihilated him in January of this year. Very rarely does a world class fighter show up on an HBO telecast as poorly prepared as Rios did the other night.
“My body is not the same no more. I’ve been in a lot of wars. I think it’s time to hang it up. I’m done,” whined Rios to Max Kellerman. “I think that’s it. It was a great run, it is what it is. I’d like to thank the fans for coming out and supporting this. I know I didn’t give a great show, but f*ck it, it is what it is.”
And Bradley is what he is, Teddy Atlas and all the rhetoric non-withstanding. Always in immaculate condition, its difficult to gauge how Bradley would’ve fared [with say] Jesse Vargas under Atlas because Rios was such a mess. The last time we saw good ole Tim he was grinding his way to a points win over a solid pro in Vargas and hurt very badly in the 12th round. Prior to that, there was a pitched battle and draw (though Bradley deserved the win) with perennial journeyman Diego Chaves. Bradley boxed cleanly and used text book skills to carve up the woefully out-of-shape Rios (who could barely lift up his arms to punch as the fight progressed) and managed to avoid prolonged in-fighting, which has been an Achilles heel. Still, his stoppage victory was more a result of attrition and what Rios wasn’t, as opposed to anything new about him or Atlas.
“I saw I hurt him early to the body,” Bradley told Kellerman. “I kinda wanted to get him not thinking about it for a while, then I went back downstairs. I caught him when I side-stepped him, I hit him right in the solar plexus.” Not long after that, Bradley pondered his new union with Atlas and all that it could produce for him and his prospects at the elite level in the sport.
“We had seven weeks. I wonder what a year would do. I wonder what two years would bring. I got a knockout win against a great champion and a great opponent in Brandon Rios. I don’t know, the sky’s the limit from here, I believe. Teddy’s already said he’s coming back for my next training camp, so I’m excited for that.”
That training camp will now most likely be against Manny Pacquiao, someone Atlas has had a disdain for and is a challenge he would relish.
PACQUIAO VS. BRADLEY III
Bradley, then trained by a very good trainer in Joel Diaz, defeated Pacquiao via split decision in June 2012, in a fight virtually everyone knows he didn’t win. Bradley claimed a foot injury in victory, but its hard to imagine he could’ve looked any better in that fight. He went on to engage in a brutal war with Ruslan Provodnikov (a bout he’s never recovered from) and then matadored an aging Juan Manuel Marquez before facing Pacquiao again in April 2014. This time, there was no doubt about a Pacquiao victory, who turned in a workman-like effort that the soon-to-be senator wasn’t entirely pleased with. Diaz – who told Bradley during preparation for Chaves that he noticed regression in him, urged Bradley to consider retirement following his narrow escape of Vargas. But Bradley, who is willing to die in the ring but will fight to survive, will go out on his shield.
A trainer such as Atlas will ensure that result, for as knowledgeable as he is, is only training Bradley for the payday and will try to work around the deficiencies of “Desert Storm”. He knows Bradley will be facing an older version of Pacquiao and will implore Bradley to fight a smart, high volume fight. But he’s also training an older version of Bradley and one that isn’t as good as he once was. Still, the promotion will focus on Bradley’s thorough domination and stoppage of Rios, in comparison to the complete paint job Pacquiao put on Rios in a November 2013 shutout. We’ll be sold that Bradley has found a power surge and is prime for revenge but don’t buy it.
Assuming Pacquiao comes back a fully healed and reasonable facsimile of the fighter who drowned Chris Algieri in November 2014, a late stoppage of Bradley is actually very probable. Despite the result of the other night, Bradley was caught cleanly on occasion by the comatose Rios, is slower, swells and cuts easier, and is not nearly as durable as he was in years past. Plus, Freddie Roach now has more data on Bradley than the FBI, all of which points to an 11th round TKO or wide UD win for Pacquiao, as he regains the WBO welterweight championship.
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