LAS VEGAS – Timothy Bradley promised not to brawl, and except when he absolutely had no other choice, he did not. And that led him to a split decision over Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday in their bout for the WBO welterweight title at the Thomas & Mack Center.
In March, Bradley chose to go toe-to-toe with Ruslan Provodnikov, and though he escaped that bout with a victory, he suffered a serious concussion. He also promised his wife, Monica, that he would not brawl with Marquez.
He was a man of his word, boxing expertly and neutralizing Marquez's power in claiming a split decision. Judges Patricia Morse-Jarman (116-112) and Robert Hoyle (115-113) saw it for Bradley. Glen Feldman scored it 115-113 for Marquez. Yahoo Sports had it 116-112 for Bradley.
Bradley, now 31-0, has victories over Manny Pacquiao and Marquez and was thinking of his future.
"That win is my ticket to the Boxing Hall of Fame," Bradley said. "I beat a great champion. I jabbed over and over. He couldn't touch me. I gave him a boxing lesson."
Marquez landed a few good right hands throughout the fight, but it was two rights by Bradley, in the 10th and the 12th, that seemed to hurt the legendary Mexican champion.
Worse from Marquez's standpoint was that he was unable to get Bradley to stand and trade with him, except for brief flurries at the end of a couple of rounds.
Bradley resisted the urge to try to exchange with Marquez, and though it didn't make the heavily Mexican crowd of 13,111 too happy, it was clearly the smart strategy.
"Tim followed the game plan perfectly," Bradley trainer Joel Diaz said. "I told you no one can beat Tim if he boxes as he should and he doesn't have a mark on his face. Marquez never touched him. Nobody can touch Tim Bradley."
The loss denied Marquez a shot to win a world title in his fifth weight class, something only five men have done and that no Mexican fighter has achieved.
On the undercard, two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko made a sensational U.S. debut, stopping veteran Jose "Negro" Ramirez in the fourth round of their scheduled 10-round featherweight bout.
Lomachenko is considered one of the greatest amateur boxers ever, and had a purported amateur mark of 396-1. He also fought six times in the World Series of Boxing, an organization run by AIBA, which runs Olympic boxing.
Those fights are considered professional bouts by FightFax, the sport's official record keeper, but Top Rank did not recognize them. Top Rank promoted the bout as his pro debut.
Regardless of whether he was 0-0 or 6-0, it was clear that Lomachenko has massive star potential. He was extraordinarily fast and accurate with his punches. He showed a great savvy and intellect in the ring and controlled the pace and tenor of the bout.
He dropped Ramirez twice, both times with shots to the body and essentially overwhelmed him.
"The punches to the body hurt way more than the punches to the head," Ramirez said. "He's really fast. I knew what I was getting into. I knew he'd be a world class fighter. He was too much for me."
Lomachenko may fight either Orlando Salido, who won the vacant WBO featherweight title against Orlando Cruz on Saturday, or Guillermo Rigondeaux, another two-time Olympic gold medalist, his next time out.
Lomachenko admitted he needed a bit more experience to consider Rigondeaux, though.
"I have a lot of respect for Rigondeaux," Lomachenko said. "I think I need a few more fights before I'm ready for him."
Salido was dominant in his victory over Cruz, the only openly gay male boxer. Salido stopped him in the seventh with a crunching right and a left uppercut, but he'd been breaking the Puerto Rican down for several rounds.
Cruz didn't have the power to keep Salido off of him and Salido was blistering him with hard right hands repeatedly. He was particularly effective to the body, landing 67 body shots in just over six rounds.
"I went into the corner and he hit me with a good shot," Cruz said. "I thought the fight was close up until then. It was going back and forth." Salido was leading on all cards at the time of the stoppage. He was up 59-55 on two judges' cards and 58-56 on the other.