- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Junior welterweight titleholder Timothy Bradley Jr. and Top Rank, his promoter, wrapped up their deal Friday as he signed a contract to challenge welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao on June 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
The match comes as no surprise. Bradley had been one of the leading names to face Pacquiao and although Pacquiao has not yet signed the paperwork, his adviser, Michael Koncz, told ESPN.com on Monday that he had committed to the pay-per-view fight.
Although Bradley will be moving up to the 147-pound division for the fight -- there is no catch weight -- he is about the same size as Pacquiao and has fought in the division before, including two fights ago when he outpointed Luis Carlos Abregu in a nontitle bout in July 2010.
At 28 and in his prime, Bradley, who is fast and skilled but lacks power, probably poses more danger to Pacquiao than any of his recent opponents.
"It's a very tough fight. Stylistically, Timmy poses a real threat," Top Rank president Todd duBoef said. "I think Timmy is an incredibly skilled fighter. He has quick hands, quick feet, he's undefeated and he doesn't know how to lose. Tim Bradley is a winner. Manny will have to be on top of his game against Tim Bradley, who is in his prime. Manny has always taken on those challenges."
Bradley will earn a career-high $5 million minimum purse.
"Manny and his team understand that in order to put on these big events you need the most skilled fighters in the world and competition, and that's why he respects all of his opponents and what they bring to the table," duBoef said.
Bradley was one of five opponents who were in the mix to fight Pacquiao. There was, of course, Floyd Mayweather Jr., whose proposed fight with Pacquiao is the biggest in the sport, but has languished for more than two years as the sides have put one road block in front of each other after another. The prospect of Pacquiao-Mayweather was again put on hold when Mayweather announced earlier this month that he would move up to junior middleweight to challenge titleholder Miguel Cotto on May 5, also at the MGM Grand.
The other opponents Top Rank had discussed with Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs), 33, were Juan Manuel Marquez (for a fourth fight), Cotto (for a rematch, although they could never agree on the weight) and junior welterweight titleholders Bradley and Lamont Peterson. Peterson was knocked out of the running recently when Top Rank began discussing a fight between him and Marquez. Ultimately, Peterson signed for a rematch with Amir Khan on Thursday.
With Pacquiao not geared up to fight Marquez in an immediate rematch of their tight fight in November, that left Bradley, who had signed last year with Top Rank with the express purpose of positioning himself for a fight with Pacquiao.
"In Timmy Bradley, you're dealing with an accomplished fighter," duBoef said. "He's a premier fighter in the 140-pound division and he's on everyone's pound-for-pound list in the top 5 to 10. He had a destruction of Peterson (in a one-sided decision in December 2009). He played with Peterson, who just beat Khan, and I was on the other end in that fight because I was Peterson's promoter. Bottom line -- Timmy Bradley is a terrific fighter."
Top Rank put Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs), of Palm Springs, Calif., on the undercard of Pacquiao-Marquez III in November to provide him with exposure on a major pay-per-view card, knowing he might be Pacquiao's next opponent. Although it was a sloppy fight filled with fouls, Bradley dismantled faded former lightweight champion Joel Casamayor and knocked him out in the eighth round.
In January 2011, Bradley unified two belts (one was later stripped) when he won a head butt-induced 10th-round technical decision in a heavily hyped fight against Devon Alexander, that never caught the public fancy, despite so much money being poured into it by HBO.
After the win, Bradley, who had called out for a unification fight with then-titleholder Khan, wound up rejecting a 50-50 deal for a July fight with him for what would have been a career-high payday of at least $1.4 million, in part because he was in the process of breaking from co-promoters Gary Shaw and Ken Thompson. He later signed with Top Rank, which has now delivered him a fight with Pacquiao.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.
Junior welterweight titleholder Timothy Bradley Jr. signed a contract to challenge welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao on June 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.