As most boxing fans are probably aware of by now, if WBA junior welterweight title holder Amir Khan 24-1 (17) gets past Paul McCloskey 22-0 (12) on April 16th, he's slated to meet WBC/WBO junior welterweight title holder Timothy Bradley in July. For the better part of the last couple weeks Khan and Bradley have been taking verbal shots at each other, and apparently they are serious about really wanting to face each other. Take note, Floyd Mayweather. If you had any intention of clearing up the confusion in the welterweight division as to who is the best fighter in it, a fight with Manny Pacquiao could be made in a week.
The pairing of Khan and Bradley comes at the perfect time because they both recently fought on HBO's "Boxing After Dark" and won high profile bouts against two of the best the junior welterweight division had to offer. In December of last year, Khan won a unanimous decision over the hard punching and highly regarded Marcos Maidana. And this past January, Bradley won a technical 10-round decision over undefeated WBC junior welterweight title holder Devon Alexander. And as recently as February 19th, Bradley appeared on "Boxing After Dark" and appealed to Khan to make the fight happen. Last weekend, Khan obliged Bradley on HBO's "Boxing After Dark" and asked the same thing of him.
What's going on in boxing? Can it be that over the course of one week boxing will see the often talked about but much delayed Wladimir Klitschko-David Haye heavyweight title clash made along with Khan and Bradley (two of the best junior welterweights in the world) being tentatively set.
Had Khan and Bradley signed to fight a year ago, most fans probably would've favored Bradley to come out on top. Ever since Khan was knocked out by Breidis Prescott in the first round two and a half years ago, Amir's reputation has taken a hit, as it is the case when all big name high profile fighters are the victim of a one-punch knockout. But since then, Khan has looked good against stern opposition and hasn't looked the part of a fighter who may have been psychologically damaged. And his showing against the hard punching and aggressive Maidana was impressive. In fact Khan was in the greatest shape of his career, and it was that conditioning which pulled him through a few rough patches during the fight when it looked as if Maidana was trying to impose his will over Khan.
Actually Khan boxes much better than he used to, partly because he's aware, much in the way that Wladimir Klitschko is, that he has defects that have to be guarded. Some fighters never recover after being the victim of a devastating knockout, and some like Khan and Klitschko escalate their game because they accept their deficiencies by over-compensating with their defense along with fundamentals and basics. Khan also puts together terrific combinations and can be a debilitating body puncher. Bradley's body might be hard for Khan to get to, but his accurate combinations will go along way in impeding Timothy's aggression.
As for Bradley, he wasn't very impressive against the clueless Devon Alexander. I think when all is said and done, Bradley's physical strength was the difference and swung the fight in his favor. Alexander was clearly the better boxer but Bradley really pressured him and forced Devon to have to fight more than he allowed him the latitude to box. In the rounds Alexander won, he got off first and disrupted or slightly impeded Bradley's aggression, which was what he needed to do in order to win the fight. The only problem for Alexander was, that took a lot out of him physically and he couldn't sustain it. That's why just when it seemed he was back in the fight, he lost the following round because he had to catch a breather. When Devon couldn't get off first, he was forced to punch with Bradley, and as you saw that favored Bradley.
It's doubtful we'll see that scenario when Bradley faces Khan. Khan is physically bigger and stronger than Alexander. And Khan punches better than both Alexander and Bradley. And if Bradley can't push the fight effectively, Khan is liable to take him apart on the way in. So from a match-up perspective, it looks as if the style contrast favors Amir Khan. Khan's chin will always be an issue when he fights, but Bradley is no banger and will not be able to force Khan into doing anything he doesn't want to do.
With Khan and Bradley set for this coming July, it looks as if the junior welterweight division will finally get sorted out.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com