Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Truncated Storm in the Desert

Michael Nelson gives his thoughts on last night's Showtime junior-welterweight doubleheader.

In a controversial TKO victory due to Nate Campbell's damaged left eye, Timothy Bradley kept his WBO belt and his undefeated record. Referee David Mendoza ruled that the cut above Campbell's eye resulted from a punch, but replays clearly show that Bradley's head was the culprit.

While the fight ended far too soon to definitively say that Bradley would have went on to win, for three rounds Bradley looked like the quicker, stronger, and craftier fighter. He used a persistent jab to go along with head movement on the outside, and surprisingly, more than held his own on the inside. Shooting combinations to Nate's midsection and largely keeping his elbow tucked around his own body, he landed more shots to the rib cage than the 37 year old veteran did, even though Campbell was thought to be the better body puncher.

Most tab Timothy's conditioning and determination as his best traits. But Saturday night was further proof that his more subtle versatility, preparation, and ring IQ are just as important in making him an elite talent. Those expecting the same aggressive Bradley that showed up against Kendall Holt instead saw the busy counter puncher that Edner Cherry had to deal with. Bradley is notorious for studying tapes, and the homework paid off as he whipped right hands and left hooks around Nate's elbows on the inside, counteracting Nate's shoulder roll defense.

With that said, Campbell had enough moments to make a legitimate case that he could still win a rematch. In the third round, he landed a few vicious shots to Timothy's sternum, the type that could easily change a fight if too many of them found a home. The question remains as to how fresh Bradley would be after several rounds of the punishing blows Nate was starting to slip in between Bradley's showy combinations.

Certainly, the TKO should be changed into a no decision, and I have a feeling it will be. Bradley seems more than willing to fight a rematch - saying in the postfight interview that Campbell was too slow and heavy-footed to bother him - but Lamont Peterson is his WBO mandatory and he may be forced to fight him instead. Regardless, Nate deserves an eventual return match. Unfortunately for him, he's not getting any younger.

There's a lot of buzz among fight fans about whether Campbell should have continued to fight and how significant the cut was. Campbell's a proven warrior, so the notion that he quit because he was in over his head should be put to bed until we have more information on the nature of his injury. He took a hard headbutt directly on his eye and he didn't mention anything about blood from the cut bothering him, only that he was seeing spots. As he was walking back to the corner at the end of the third, he looked into the ring lights with each eye, checking his vision before he declared that he couldn't see. I feel we should give the man the benefit of the doubt.

Hopefully we'll get a clear resolution to this saga, ideally by rematch. Until then, Bradley was impressive enough in three rounds to confirm his place as a top 10-15 pound-for-pound talent. And while it's unlikely he'll get ahold of a Manny Pacquiao or a Floyd Mayweather anytime soon, he has enough young talent around him - Lamont Peterson, Marcos Maidana, Devon Alexander, among others - to continue to build a resume that can catapult him into mainstream recognition.

On the undercard, Junior Witter called it quits after the 8th round against Devon Alexander, later claiming he had an elbow injury that he could no longer fight with. I suspect many fans were just happy to see an end to a sloppy fight with incessant clinching and only fleeting moments of clean contact.

While Witter had occasional success counter punching, Alexander, working behind a sharp jab, was in control for the majority of the rounds. Given Witter's penchant to fade in the late rounds, a comeback was unlikely.

Was Devon spectacular? Not exactly, but he was impressive in his own way. He showed he can handle a difficult, awkward style. He showed he was responsible defensively. And he showed that he had some rocks in his gloves by hurting Witter, who had never been previously stopped, on multiple occasions.

Alexander The Great clashing with the Desert Storm down the road seems inevitable.

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