Bradley, Rios, Ali: A lot of balls in the air

Timothy Bradley Jr., left, could be headed for a showdown with Brandon Rios in December. Chris Farina/Top Rank

It’s no secret that Top Rank is in the process of trying to put together a December fight between welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. and Brandon Rios. It’s a fight the company wants to make -- it hopes at the Forum in Inglewood, California -- a fight that the boxers are interested in and one HBO covets as it would be one of the network’s highest-profile fall bouts between two well-known fighters.

However, on Friday the WBO, whose belt Bradley holds, followed its rules by ordering him to make a mandatory defense against Sadam Ali, a fine contender. According to the WBO, Top Rank and Ali promoter Golden Boy have 30 days to negotiate a deal or a purse bid will be scheduled.

But don’t count on the order of Bradley-Ali ruining Bradley-Rios, the higher-profile fight. The likely scenario is that Top Rank and Golden Boy will work out an agreement under which Ali would step aside and allow Bradley-Rios to take place before he gets his title shot. Step-aside deals are commonplace in these situations.

The WBO is OK with the companies making a deal and Top Rank and Golden Boy both said they are open to one.

“We’ll listen to what Top Rank has to say, of course,” Golden Boy promoter Oscar De La Hoya said. “I just need to talk to Bob (Arum) and see what they have in mind and see if it makes sense for Sadam Ali and for Golden Boy Promotions.”

Keep in mind that Bradley-Rios, while seemingly likely, is not even agreed on yet -- either between Top Rank and the fighters or between Top Rank and HBO in terms of money. But if stands to reason that they will get there.

“There are a lot of balls in the air and we’re trying to figure it all out, but (Bradley-Rios is) a fight we want to make,” Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN.com on Monday.

On June 27, Bradley (32-1-1, 12 KOs), 31, of Palm Springs, California, won a unanimous decision against Jessie Vargas to win a vacant interim welterweight title at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. He was elevated to full titleholder when Floyd Mayweather, who had won the full belt from Manny Pacquiao on May 2, was stripped for failing to follow WBO rules.

Rios (33-2-1, 24 KOs), 29, of Oxnard, California, has not fought since a one-sided third-round knockout of the ill-prepared Mike Alvarado in their rubber match on Jan. 24 in Broomfield, Colorado, outside of Alvarado’s hometown of Denver.

Should a deal be made between Top Rank and Golden Boy for Ali to step aside, Ali (22-0, 13 KOs), 26, of Brooklyn, New York, likely would stay busy with a bout on Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden on the HBO PPV-televised undercard of the Gennady Golovkin-David Lemieux middleweight title unification fight.