Biggest name left in welterweight names next opponent, date

With Floyd Mayweather Jr. retired and Manny Pacquiao both aging and on the mend, Timothy Bradley Jr. may indeed be the world's No. 1 welterweight.

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Floyd Mayweather Jr. insists he is retired. Manny Pacquiao faces a long road back from shoulder surgery.

There is a vacancy on top of the welterweight division this week, and Timothy Bradley is probably the most worthy candidate to fill it.

A victory over Brandon Rios on Nov. 7 would boost Bradley’s candidacy for unofficial 147-pound supremacy. Just don’t expect the WBO champion to campaign for any honors he can’t win in the ring.

"I don’t like to say that I feel like I’m the best welterweight in the world," Bradley said Wednesday in downtown Los Angeles while announcing his next bout. "I feel like I’m one of them, but I would like to beat all the guys in the division before I say that. I haven’t faced everybody, but I know that I can fight these guys. I know I can beat all the guys in the welterweight division."

Bradley (32-1-1, 12 KOs) will defend his title against Rios at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas on an HBO telecast. The undercard will be headlined by vaunted featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko in his sixth professional fight against little-known Mexican featherweight Romulo Koasicha.

The main event is another chance for Bradley to show off his combination of technical skill and scrapping instincts against Rios (33-2-1, 24 KOs), who has never shied away from a good brawl. Bradley has enlisted veteran trainer Teddy Atlas to prepare him for Rios, seeking a fresh start and new information after parting ways with longtime trainer Joel Diaz.

"I’m trying to learn how to fight different ways, and how to do things the right way," Bradley said. "Teddy is showing me some things I never knew about boxing before, and I’ve been in this game a long time."

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Both Bradley and Rios have recent losses to Pacquiao on their records, but Bradley hasn’t lost to any other opponent willing to face him during his 11-year pro career. He has been a champion at 140 or 147 pounds in every year since 2008, winning title fights in England, Canada, Michigan, Las Vegas and his native Southern California.

Mayweather retired without ever accepting the chance to fight Bradley, who is promoted by Bob Arum, Mayweather’s former promoter turned foe. Bradley became the WBO welterweight champion when Mayweather decided not to pay a sanctioning fee for the honor.

Similar promotional divides separate much of the welterweight division, but Bradley still dreams of a shot at other top 147-pounders, including Keith Thurman, Kell Brook, Amir Khan and Shawn Porter, to name a few.

"There’s a lot of guys on the other side that I would like to face, but politics won’t allow me to face them," Bradley said. "Someday it’ll happen, if I stick around long enough in the business. I’d like to beat all the top guys out there and say I’m the best one out there."

Bradley’s next fight is perhaps even more important to Rios, who hasn’t been in the ring since stopping Mike Alvarado in January to avenge his only other career defeat in the decisive bout of their memorable trilogy.

Rios has been frustrated by his inactivity, with a potential fight against Brook falling apart. He was relieved when the long negotiations for a bout with Bradley finally ended.

"I feel like my back is against the wall now," Rios said. "They think I’m done. Maybe a shot fighter, that I’ve taken too many punches. I’m not done yet. … I’d see on TV that everybody was fighting but me. I take out my frustration in the gym, but I was mad. I got to spend time with my kids, but I need to be in the ring."