On Saturday night, welterweight Timothy Bradley 32-1-1 (12) won the interim WBO title belt that Floyd Mayweather recently vacated.
Bradley accomplished the feat by getting the better of Jessie Vargas 26-1 (9), who entered the bout undefeated.
The fight went the distance and when it was over Bradley won by unanimous decision via the scores 116-112, 177-111 and 115-112. I scored it 117-110 and only gave Vargas two rounds, the second and the 12th.
The Bradley-Vargas bout was pretty spirited with some decent exchanges. However, the controversy regarding referee Paul Russell stopping the fight 7-10 seconds too early is getting way more attention than it warrants. And Vargas saying that he was cheated out of a victory because of it is an outrage.
Yes, Vargas caught Bradley with a thunderous right hand at the end of the last round while Bradley had his hands low prematurely celebrating his anticipated victory. He was really hurt, but not beyond the point to where he didn’t have control of his senses. As he said in his post-fight interview, he moved away to keep from getting hit again and when Vargas got close to him he quickly held him and prevented Jessie from getting any potentially finishing punches off.
Please, there is no way Paul Russell mistakenly misinterpreting the 10 second warning for the bell cost Vargas a win that he didn’t deserve. It would’ve been nothing short of a miracle and a crime had Vargas lucked out and won.
Other than sometimes being a little too anxious and wild, Bradley bettered Vargas at every turn for a majority of the fight and won most of the rounds…some were close and others not so much so. It was an easy fight to score, but only one fighter was starting and finishing most of the exchanges and that was Bradley.
From the onset of the fight Bradley used his quicker hands and mostly tempered aggression to get the better of Vargas fighting at mid-range and on the inside. Bradley was the fighter who was controlling the action, sometimes by forcing it and others by stepping back and looking for the counter when he could lure Vargas into following him. Timothy picked the spots and set the tempo. Vargas fought with trepidation for ninety percent of the bout and was more concerned with what Bradley was doing instead of focusing on what he needed to do. Vargas, instead of walking Bradley back and keeping the fight on the outside, virtually allowed Bradley to cut loose and get off with three and four punch combinations and only looked to counter him with something meaningful when Bradley got too wild and left his chin dangling and exposed. And on Vargas’s behalf, he did come close a couple times. But that was the wrong strategy to employ against a veteran like Bradley.
It was obvious during the fight that the fighter who owns victories over Ruslan Provodnikov, Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, Devon Alexander and Lamont Peterson was too hard and experienced for Vargas, who despite being undefeated could’ve realistically been 3-3 in his last six bouts. For 11 rounds two minutes and 45 seconds Vargas barely took the initiative, then with the fight all but lost, he caught a foolishly unsuspecting Bradley with the best punch of the contest and hurt him. But if you listen to Vargas, he tried to project it as if his plan all along was to wait for the last half minute of the fight and then take Bradley out. This was almost as bad as listening to Adrien Broner say last week that he just didn’t get the decision against Shawn Porter – with the assumption being the fight could’ve gone either way and Porter, who actually kicked his butt, was the lucky benefactor.
Timothy Bradley clearly defeated Jesse Vargas this past Saturday night and looked pretty good doing it. But Vargas is not an elite fighter by any means. So the question is….where does Bradley rate among the best of the best currently campaigning at welterweight? And that’s a tough question to answer definitively. Prior to beating Vargas, Bradley hadn’t won in two consecutive fights. Based on last night I don’t think he could compete with Mayweather and he lost to Pacquiao in April of last year. Seeing him fight Keith Thurman, Kell Brook or Marcos Maidana would be compelling bouts and it shouldn’t be considered an upset if he beat any one of them because he’s so tough and determined, although he’d probably be an underdog against all three.
The best that can be said for Bradley is he did what he was supposed to do against Jessie Vargas. He controlled the fight most of the way and won conclusively. There’s no controversy regarding what occurred in the last round nor does it taint or mar Bradley’s well deserved victory. No way.
The takeaway from the fight is this: I believe Timothy Bradley, 31, is on the decline. As of this writing he’s still elite among his welterweight peers, I’m just not sure for how much longer. Vargas came a little too close with some telegraphed hay-makers for my liking.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com