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Never mind belts, Bradley takes best fights

On Saturday, unbeaten world champion Timothy Bradley will step into a ring at the Agua Caliente Resort in Rancho Mirage, Calif., to defend his super lightweight belt against Nate Campbell before a national television audience.

The World Boxing Council championship he won 14 months ago will be at stake, too.

But it will be Junior Witter, the man Bradley defeated on May 10, 2008 to win the championship, and hot prospect Devon Alexander who will fight for that belt.

Bradley was forced to surrender it because the WBC mandated that he fight Alexander and wouldn't give him any leeway to fight a difficult, highly marketable bout against Campbell.

So Bradley surrendered the WBC belt and will only have his World Boxing Organization crown up for grabs when he meets Campbell in front of a hometown crowd Saturday.

"I wanted to do things the right way and I always dreamed of winning all the belts and becoming the man and then defending it against all comers," Bradley said.

Of course, that's what any reasonable person would want, except the skunks who populate the world sanctioning bodies.

They apply their rules when it's convenient for them. As Campbell noted, if world pound-for-pound kingpin Manny Pacquiao had held the WBC belt, does anyone honestly think the WBC would have forced him to defend it against Alexander unless he wanted to do so?

That's nothing against Alexander, who is a talented fighter and who has the ability to become one of the game's biggest stars. But he's a virtual unknown now and wouldn't mean a serious payday at this point for any of his potential opponents.

Bradley is a charming, professional and exciting fighter who is willing to step in against anyone, who makes television-friendly fights and who is the kind of guy you'd be thrilled for your daughter to meet.

Bradley chose to fight Campbell, who had three of the four major lightweight titles until he could no longer make the 135-pound limit, and voluntarily give up his belt. He's too classy to blast the WBC, but make no mistake, the WBC deserves to be blasted.

"The WBC wasn't wrong," Bradley said. "But there is a real difference between the way the stars are treated and just guys who have titles. The stars pretty much can fight who they want. They don't have to make these kinds of choices. They pick their opponents and everything somehow seems to work out fine.

"Then there are the rest of us, and we have these kinds of decisions to make. Do you honestly believe Manny Pacquiao would be made to fight Devon Alexander? Come on, let's be real. I have no problem with Devon, either, and I have a lot of respect for him. But it's just that the rules don't apply to everyone."

It's this kind of situation that creates the muddle that boxing has become. It's virtually impossible for a man to hold the titles of the four major sanctioning bodies for any length of time because competing mandatory challengers almost inevitably will force a fighter to choose between the belts.

It just seems crooked when an unbeaten fighter is introduced as the former champion.

The good thing, though, is that title or not, the Bradley-Campbell fight figures to be another in a series of gems that have been televised in 2009.

Campbell has been ornery in the days leading up to the bout and has vowed all sorts of mayhem. Bradley, who watched Campbell systematically take apart Juan Diaz last year in a lightweight title bout in Cancun, Mexico, said he could hardly believe his eyes when he was watching that bout.

"I actually lost money on that fight," Bradley said. "I bet my promoter, Alex Camponovo, that Juan would be able to come back. When I saw Nate put his hands on Juan, I was like, 'Wow, this dude is unbelievable.' I was like, 'I would never want to get in the ring with that dude.' But it came down to it.

"Basically, to be the best you've got to beat the best. I consider Nate Campbell one of the best fighters at 140 pounds. That's why I'm taking this challenge. I want to be the best fighter in the world at 140 pounds and I have to beat Nate Campbell to do that."

Bradley knows he's unlikely to get a crack at the likes of Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr., the biggest names who would represent the biggest paydays for him.

But he's content with that, knowing that, at age 25, time is on his side. He's a marvelously conditioned fighter with a build some bodybuilders would die for. Best of all, he's constantly improving.

He's never content to coast along.

And so while the huge money and notoriety a fight with Pacquiao could bring him must wait, he believes his day will come.

"Most guys don't start to make the real serious money until they've been doing it for about 10 years, so I still have five years to go," Bradley said. "It might come quicker, but if it doesn't, I can live with it. I promise you that I'm never going to duck anyone and each time I go out there, I'm going to hopefully fight the best guy I can find.

"I'm an old school kind of guy. I think boxing should be like it was in the Eighties, when you had great guys like (Marvelous Marvin) Hagler and Sugar Ray (Leonard) and (Roberto) Duran and Tommy Hearns and they not only fought each other all the time, but they fought everyone else. When you're a champion, you have an obligation to defend that belt against the best men out there and that's all I want to do."