Michael Rosenthal

Bradley beats Abregu but it isn’t pretty

Carlos Abregu landed some hard shots against Timothy Bradley on Saturday in Rancho Mirage, Calif. Photo / Naoki Fukuda

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Don’t let the scores fool you. Timothy Bradley was in a fight here on Saturday.

Bradley, performing in front of his enthusiastic hometown fans at Agua Caliente Casino, probably expected to showcase his considerable talents against the unbeaten but largely untested Carlos Abregu in his first appearance on HBO. We all figured the same thing.

Abregu didn’t cooperate, though. Bradley won a unanimous decision but it certainly wasn’t a dominating performance. Abregu made him work for every point in a fight that most ringsiders thought was closer than the official cards –- 118-110, 117-111, 116-112.

Did Bradley, hoping to land big-money fights, enhance his reputation in front a large TV audience? Perhaps. But more as a result of his determination and ability to adapt than an impressive boxing exhibition.

“I felt a little flat at times,” said Bradley, hiding a cut over his right eye with sunglasses at the post-fight news conference. “The conditioning was there. I wasn’t tired at all. The speed was there. I felt I had more punching power (at 147 pounds). I was able to hurt him a few times but he recovered quickly.

“It wasn’t the best performance I probably could’ve put on. I wasn’t changing up my punches, throwing lead lefts and rights like we worked on in the gym.”

Bradley (26-0, 11 knockouts) moved up from 140 pounds to 147 for the fight, which already placed him at a slight disadvantage against a natural welterweight. Abregu (29-1, 23 KOs) also is much taller than Bradley, which posed another problem.

And, most important, Abregu turned out to be damned good.

Bradley, perhaps sluggish because of the added weight, had difficulty hitting Abregu as a result of the reach disadvantage and Abregu’s surprisingly good defensive skills. Bradley had to lunge throughout the fight to land punches -– and often missed.

He did score enough to win rounds, though. He hurt Abregu with an overhand right in the first round and stunned Abregu periodically the remainder of the fight. And he landed many more punches. Bradley outlanded Abregu 159 (of 531 punches) to only 93 (of 583), an indication that Bradley’s defense was even better than Abergu’s.

And Bradley might’ve lucked out in another regard. He implied after the fight that he couldn’t understand why Abregu didn’t throw many right hands, his best punch. Abregu provided a possible answer: He injured the hand in training.

That shouldn’t diminish Bradley’s performance, though. He didn’t get the eye-popping victory that wows the fans but viewers had to be impressed with his resilience and will to win.

“Abregu was a tough, tough opponent,” Bradley said. “… He boxed different from what I saw on videos. He had good defense. His hands were up. He was patient. I was the one getting wild. I thought, ‘Did we switch positions?’ He kept his composure in there.

“He fought a great fight plan. It threw me off a bit. I expected him to move more, to throw right hands a little bit more, to try to load up one punch. I was just able to slip away and get the victory tonight.”

Abregu knew the fight was closer than the scorecards indicated. In the ring, immediately after the fight, he said he should’ve at least received a draw. And he said at the post-fight news conference that the result might’ve been different if his hand wasn’t injured.

“Tim was saved because I hurt my right hand … but that’s boxing,” said Abregu, more disappointed than beat up in spite of his battered face.

So what’s next for Bradley?

THE RING’s No. 1-rated junior welterweight called out Manny Pacquiao at the post-fight news conference, but a lucrative matchup with the Filipino icon is unlikely because promoter Bob Arum said he will seek a fight with either Antonio Margarito or Miguel Cotto –- both of whom are in his stable -– as an alternative to Floyd Mayweather Jr.

A more-realistic possibility is fellow unbeaten Devon Alexander, who is promoted by Don King. Beyond that, the other most-marketable 140-pounders –- Amir Khan, Marcos Maidana and Victor Ortiz -– are handled by Golden Boy Promotions.

And the perception is that Top Rank and Golden Boy will keep their fighters in house, which Gary Shaw, Bradley’s promoter, lamented.

“Top Rank and Golden Boy … tear down the walls,” he said. “Don’t be afraid of Tim Bradley. You have fighters we want to fight. To Al Haymon [Mayweather’s advisor] we say we want Floyd Mayweather. To Bob Arum we say we want Manny Pacquiao. To Richard Schaefer [of Golden Boy] we say we want Khan, Ortiz or Maidana.”

The fighters mentioned above might be just a bit more willing to face Bradley after his performance against Abregu. And Bradley would be OK with that.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at RingTVeditor@yahoo.com

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