It’s important not to make too much of Timothy Bradley’s one-sided, KO victory over Brandon Rios on Saturday night in Las Vegas. Rios was an opponent Bradley should have been able to beat. Rios has always been a courageous and entertaining fighter, but he’s also had problems with skilled boxers who can move. He had trouble getting his weight down for this fight, and was back to 170 pounds by the time of the fight. Bradley smartly exploited his poor condition by banging away at his torso and stopping him with a body shot.
But taking care of the business before you is always the first step on the road to glory. And Bradley did that against Rios, with an exclamation point. Competing for the first time with his new trainer, Teddy Atlas, Bradley looked sharper than he has since defeating Juan Manuel Marquez in October 2013. He recorded his first knockout since stopping a badly faded Joel Casamayor in November 2011.
It was a performance Timothy Bradley badly needed. In his his first career loss, to Manny Pacquiao in April 2014, he fought an unwise, over-aggressive fight early and ended up badly fatigued late. When he drew with Diego Chaves last December, I thought he got robbed. But it was a letdown that Bradley fought a guy like Chaves close enough to let the judges’ screw it up.
Last June, Bradley out-pointed Jessie Vargas to claim the vacant WBO welterweight belt. Yet, he barely escaped the fight, nearly allowing himself to get knocked out by Vargas in the final round.
Timothy Bradley has been in some major battles in his career, and it was natural for fans to speculate on whether or not he was too faded to remain at the top of the sport. This win over Rios doesn’t necessarily answer that question. But it definitely proves he still deserves to be fighting at that level.
All during the build up to this fight, Bradley talked with enthusiasm about his new relationship with Atlas. During the fight, the two communicated well in the corner. Atlas gave smart technical advice and delivered stirring motivational talks.
While he is an experience veteran, at 31, Bradley is young enough to have a next chapter to his career. The welterweight division is wide open in the wake of Floyd Mayweather’s retirement. Timothy Bradley has to be viewed as one of the best talents in the weight class.