By Jack Price @PriceyJ97 - @BoxingOpinions1
Timothy Bradley was fighting with something to prove on Saturday night. The 30-year old wanted to show the boxing world that he belongs at the very top with the very best fighters. Despite being a 2-weight world champion and holding wins over some of the best fighters in the sport, the hard-working American never got the recognition he feels he deserves from the fans. To gain that respect and recognition he had to beat Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez.
Marquez was coming off of that incredible knockout victory over Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao and was expected to be in the best form of his long and incredible career, with little to prove in this fight. Bradley was coming in from a completely different angle. He picked up a controversial split decision over Pacquiao in June of 2012, a win that damaged his career and reputation more than boost it. He then took on Russian Ruslan Provodnikov in what was expected to be a routine comeback fight. However, it didn't end up like anybody expected. Bradley had to go through a grueling, punch-for-punch war to scrape through with a close unanimous decision. This fight did gain Bradley more fans because of the heart he showed, but it didn't show the doubters that he belonged at the elite level. This all meant, like I said, that Bradley still needed a win over someone like Marquez to cement his spot in this era.
And that's exactly what he did. In front of a predominantly Marquez/Mexican crowd, Bradley put on a career-best performance to out-class and out-work the 40-year old over 12 rounds at the Thomas & Mack Center, retaining his WBO welterweight title.
The fight started in the way everyone expected it to. Both men fighting with smart game-plans, tentatively looking to take the initiative. It was Bradley that managed to get his work flowing first as he established his jab and just kept popping it in Marquez's face. This turned out to be a key thing in the fight for Bradley throughout. His busy jab along with his movement stopped Marquez from getting close and unleashing with his power shots.
As the fight progressed, the pattern continued. Marquez, a veteran that's met almost every style possible in the ring, looked genuinely confused or troubled by Bradley's movement, hand-speed and overall game-plan. There were some moments when Marquez managed to get through, but when he did, Bradley just came back even stronger, which made it hard to give any of the early rounds to the Mexican.
The only two rounds that Bradley probably definitely lost were the 11th and 12th. Some of the others I scored to Marquez could have gone either way. Bradley took his foot off the gas in the final two and allowed Marquez to come on strong, but luckily for him he was already too far ahead. As the two men traded blows at a rapid pace for the final 10 seconds, Bradley landed a left-hand that sent Marquez stumbling backwards as the bell rang.
The scorecards seemed a formality, with nearly everyone ringside and on Twitter scoring the fight to Bradley by a few rounds (I had it to Bradley by 115-113), but as usual lately in boxing, there was a bit of controversy... One judge actually managed to score the fight to Marquez by 2 rounds (115-113). I could, at most, see this fight as a draw if you scored some of the close rounds to Marquez, but even that would be pushing it a bit. The other two judges gave fair scorecards, scoring it 115-113 & 116-112 to Bradley.
Bradley now finally finds himself in the place he has always wanted to be. This win has boosted him into the top 5 pound-for-pound, got him the recognition he's been battling for and guaranteed him some even bigger fights in the future. For Marquez, it looks like it may be the end of the road. Really he should have retired after the Pacquiao KO. That was the perfect time. He may have one or two more low-key fights in Mexico, but I can't see him carrying on for much longer. Maybe one legend ends his path as another starts to pave his way? It's happened so many times in this sport.