Everyone is anticipating fireworks when two of the greatest fighters in boxing—Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez—step into the ring Saturday to complete what is already a legendary trilogy.
But while Pacquiao (Ring magazine's No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter) and Marquez (No. 5 pound-for-pound) will certainly steal the headlines, another top-10 pound-for-pound fighter will also be on the card.
Timothy Bradley, of Palm Desert, Calif., is currently ranked No. 8 by Ring, and has been one of the most fascinating and curious fighters in the sport.
He faces off against former champion Joel Casamayor in the marquee undercard bout of the evening.
Bradley, 28 years old and seeking the 28th win of his undefeated career, burst onto the scene in May, 2008, with an upset victory over WBC light welterweight champion Junior Witter in the champion's home country of England, and has won seven straight title fights since then.
Bradley is best known for his superb conditioning and all-around ability rather than any particular physical gifts, but has seen his career stall lately, as a much-anticipated showdown with Devon Alexander in January fell short of its highly-touted expectations, and a summer date with chief rival Amir Khan failed to materialize.
Signs indicate that the Casamayor bout may be a tune-up fight prior to a potential Bradley vs. Pacquiao fight if the Filipino's plans to fight Floyd Mayweather continue to fall through.
Bradley, who fights at light welterweight (140 pounds), is just a few pounds away from Pacquiao, who will be fighting Marquez at a catchweight of 144 pounds.
More importantly, Bradley recently signed with Bob Arum's Top Rank promotions, which has been a de facto requirement to fight Pacquiao recently. All of Pacquiao's recent opponents had at least signed short-term contracts so that Bob Arum could promote both fighters for his bouts.
Bradley vs. Pacquiao could be an interesting bout. At 5'6", Bradley normally faces a height disadvantage, but would actually be the same height as Pacquiao. One of the biggest criticisms of Bradley has been that his size and style tends to create a lot of headbutts, but against Pacquiao, he wouldn't be as likely to catch his opponent near the eyebrows, which is the primary place for cuts.
Assuming Bradley performs as expected and defeats Casamayor, a very lucrative fight could be in his future. Still, the story surrounding this reinforces another theme of Bradley's career: despite his talent and proven track record, he is nobody's first choice to fight Pacquiao.
Everyone who even casually follows the sport knows that a Pacquiao vs. Mayweather bout is what the boxing fans crave, so Bradley getting a chance to fight Pacquiao is clearly an underdog proposition. But perhaps that's where Bradley is most comfortable.
True boxing fans will be watching the Bradley vs. Pacquiao narrative closely this Sunday, when the under-appreciated marquee American fighter steps into the ring to make another defense of the title he has held for the past three years.