After this past Saturday’s ostensibly well-matched fight between Tim Bradley and Brandon Rios, fans are left wondering what happened to create such a one-sided win for Bradley. One of the best performances of his career, Bradley was able to systematically dismantle his opponent’s offense and effectively use his own, including an impressive focus on body work. It was, in fact, a series of body shots that finally put an end to the contest in the ninth round, but Bradley beat Rios to the punch throughout the fight.
Under new trainer Teddy Atlas, Bradley seems to have evolved past the ugly, defensive fighting style that won him so many points decisions and caused so many head clashes. at 140 pounds He even managed to completely avoid the martyrdom of the style he adopted against Provodnikov and others when he moved up to welterweight. Unfortunately, Rios also contributed to the win for Bradley by allowing his weight to become a problem during training, forcing him to drain himself before the fight. The conditioning issue no doubt factored into the effect of Bradley’s body shots, but it’s possible that Bradley was actually at the best of his career. Continuing with only one loss, Bradley will look to bigger fights, even going so far as to mention Saul Alvarez. While Bradley has established himself as a force at 147, I think most fans, an overwhelming majority, realize that a small, very skilled, welterweight is almost hopeless against a large, arguably more skilled, junior middlweight. In the euphoria of the win, you can’t blame Bradley for throwing out names, but putting himself in a no-win match just for name recognition and a paycheck is not the way to maximize the almost immaculate record he’s built up with wins over B+ and A- fighters. A third fight in his series with Pacquiao, however, could be very interesting, given Pacquiao’s age and imminent retirement.
On the other side of the coin, the hopelessness of the comprehensive defeat left Rios feeling that his body had given out on him, that he had been given the internal signal to hang up the gloves. Indeed, for an all-offense fighter who made his name in slugging wars with skilled fighters (including Pacquiao), making the decision to call it quits before the muddled allure of the sport drags him into Holyfield-esque impotence is not only wise, it’s a model of behavior for other athletes in the sport. In his post-fight interview, Rios was as colorful and emotive as always, but with the tinge of despair any professional fighter feels when they’ve been beaten into submission. While some might see this kind of reaction as dishonorable (see Klitschko-Arreola), the statement was genuine, heart-felt, and showed a self-awareness rarely seen in any sport, but especially boxing. Even more admirable, when asked whether he was still planning on retirement at a later press conference, Rios never wavered. The transition from the mental state of a fighter in combat to the rationality of a fighter managing aspects of his career and physical health is difficult to make, but Rios managed. Congratulations to both fighters on their performances.