When Timothy Bradley and Brandon Rios square off this weekend, it promises to be an exciting fight. Beyond that, it has real relevance for the welterweight division.
Rios is arguably top 10 in the division and an upset of Timothy Bradley would push him firmly into any credible top 10 at 147 pounds. Bam Bam has limitations as a fighter. He struggles when opponents use movement. At the same time, the things Rios does well make him dangerous to almost anybody. He’s got a granite chin and does not get discouraged. His conditioning and emotional reserves keep him coming all night long, and in the pocket, he’s a skilled fighter, capable of turning a losing effort around in a hurry.
A solid win over Rios would cement Bradley into a position he already deserves, based purely on resume. Despite some close calls and brutal fights over the past few years, on paper he has a solid claim to being the top welterweight in the world, with Floyd Mayweather retired and Manny Pacquiao likely to fight at 140 pounds for his retirement bout next April.
My own top 10 for the welterweight division:
1. Kell Brook: The undefeated IBF champion has one extremely impressive win over Shawn Porter. He’s looked great against fringe contenders, but I’m anxious to see him face another top fighter in the division.
2. Timothy Bradley: He’s clearly looked diminished of late. But he’s only lost to Pacquiao and has defeated some outstanding opponents.
3. Amir Khan: You have to question his chin, based on his two knockout losses. But based on skill, I’d give him an outstanding chance of beating any fighter in the division.
4. Keith Thurman: The undefeated slugger looks like he could be the second-coming for American boxing fans. But he needs to step up his level of competition.
5. Shawn Porter: A tough, athletic fighter. He’d give a bruising 12 rounds to anybody in the division. Clearly deserved to lose against Brook, though.
6. Danny Garcia: Undefeated, but I thought he deserved to lose to both Mauricio Herrera and Lamont Peterson. Was outstanding against Amir Khan and Lucas Matthysse, though.
7. Sadam Ali: Undefeated Brooklyn native looked tremendous against Luis Abregu a year ago. Has fought just once in 2015, against a second-tier opponent.
8. Brandon Rios: Was amazing in his third fight against Mike Alvarado last January, but a lot of that was due to Alvarado’s out-of-ring problems. Bradley is his big opportunity.
9. Errol Spence Jr.: Has yet to defeat a truly significant opponent, but has consistently looked like the total package against second-tier opposition. Along with Terence Crawford, he might be the most promising American fighter on the scene.
10. Diego Chaves: I thought he got a gift when the judges awarded him a draw against Bradley last year. But credit to him for fighting Bradley close enough to get a gift. A rough, brawling fighter.