Junior welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. has endured a difficult year.
• He has been savaged by fans and media for refusing to face fellow titleholder Amir Khan on July 23 on HBO -- despite a 50-50 offer and career-high payday of at least $1.4 million -- when he was the one who called out Khan in the first place.
• He is facing a breach-of-contract lawsuit from former co-promoters Gary Shaw and Ken Thompson.
• And he has been stripped of one of his world title belts, supposedly for inactivity and the uncertainty of his schedule caused by the lawsuit. To that, Bradley said, "When I heard about it, I was like, 'To hell with [the WBC].' I had been stripped by them before. It's like breaking up with somebody. Whatever. That's one less sanctioning fee I have to pay. I thought it was funny that stripping me was the only way they could get the championship away from me."
Not much has gone right in 2011 for Bradley, other than his wife giving birth to their baby girl, Jada, on July 31.
Even Bradley's 10th-round technical decision win against Devon Alexander to unify two 140-pound titles on Jan. 29 was critically panned because of its lack of action and an unsatisfying ending that was a result of several accidental head-butts.
Yet Bradley (27-0, 11 KOs), who hasn't fought since, finally sees the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Palm Springs, Calif., native signed this week with Top Rank, despite the lawsuit and the possibility of more litigation from Shaw and Thompson against Top Rank. He was then booked to defend his remaining belt against faded former lightweight champion Joel Casamayor in the co-featured bout on the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III HBO PPV card Nov. 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Bradley said co-manager Cameron Dunkin had been talking with Top Rank for a few months and eventually got the "go-ahead from the lawyer" to sign. Top Rank's Bob Arum said he isn't concerned about the lawsuit or another he could face from Shaw and Thompson.
"Lawsuit -- the attorneys can address it," Arum said. "We got the go-ahead to sign Tim from our attorneys and we signed him."
It didn't take much convincing for Bradley to make the move.
"I told Cameron that I wanted to be with a real promoter and that I wanted to be promoted. That is what it boiled down to," Bradley said. "Top Rank, man, they are the best promotional company in the world and I wanted to be part of this team. The way they do it, they're always three, four steps ahead of everyone."
As far as the lawsuit goes, Bradley said, "I'll let the lawyers handle all of that. My concern is Nov. 12 against Casamayor. He's still a dangerous fighter. He gets up for big fights. He has a tremendous amount of skill, although he's older. He can still fight."
Arum said he didn't care about wide criticism of the Casamayor bout being a mismatch.
"Who cares what they say," Arum said. "We thought it was a good fight for Tim given the layoff. We went to [Golden Boy's Richard] Schaefer to see if we could get [Marcos] Maidana and [Schaefer] wasn't interested. I don't blame him. He probably has other guys to match him with. But we tried."
Before signing with Top Rank, there were settlement discussions between Shaw and Thompson and Bradley's camp. Leon Margules, a promoter who is also the lawyer representing Shaw and Thompson in the suit, declined to comment on Bradley's signing with Top Rank or any settlement discussions.
Bradley said he never felt appreciated or promoted properly by his previous promoters.
"There were many times where I approached Thompson and Gary and wanted to talk about the contract and different things, and the direction they wanted to take me in, but they shined me off all the time," Bradley said. "I didn't agree with that. I was promised the world and they didn't deliver. As far as business goes, I feel I made the right move for my career. I'm 28, still in my prime -- I hope. I definitely need to make use of these years.
"I only fought twice in the last two years. I've captured three world championships, and you walk outside and ask people and nobody knows me."
Arum has started trying to change that. In announcing Bradley's signing this week, Arum hosted a media lunch for Bradley in Beverly Hills to get the ball rolling.
"We're very excited to promote Bradley," Arum said. "We think he can be a future superstar. He's personable and a very good fighter. We're going to really build him."
Bradley said Top Rank has a plan for him, something he said Shaw and Thompson never had. If all goes well against Casamayor (38-5-1, 22 KOs), who is a big underdog, Bradley would return in the first quarter of 2012.
I was supposed to become a star after I beat Alexander, and it didn't happen. If I beat Amir Khan, it wouldn't have done anything for my career. Would it have put me in position to fight Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather? Not necessarily.
”-- Junior welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr., on his turning down a fight with Amir Khan
"I just want to be busy," Bradley said. "I'm willing to fight at 147 or 140 -- whatever weight they want me to fight at."
Of course, by fighting Casamayor (a southpaw like Pacquiao) on Pacquiao's undercard, it's quite obvious that Arum is lining up Bradley as a possible future Pacquiao opponent. No secret there.
However, Bradley said he has received no such assurances from Arum -- just the promise that his name will be on the short list if Pacquiao beats Marquez and a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. doesn't materialize.
"My contract with Top Rank doesn't say I'm guaranteed Pacquiao," Bradley said. "But Top Rank is going to promote me. If the Manny Pacquiao fight does come about, that's great. The focus is not just Manny Pacquiao. I have to win on Nov. 12, just like he's gotta win Nov. 12. Then we could have that option. But Bob says he hasn't spoken to Manny's camp about us fighting. And he hasn't had to talk to me about it because he knows I want to fight him.
"If I get Pacquiao, I'd be the happiest man on the planet. I feel I deserve it. I don't care what anybody thinks. I definitely have the credibility and the ability to give Manny Pacquiao a good fight."
Said Arum: "Everybody said we did this because there is a deal for him to fight Pacquiao, and that is just not true. We made it very plain to him that we have never discussed him with Manny or [trainer] Freddie [Roach] and we aren't going to even think about that until after Nov. 12."
Bradley said the past 10 months have been difficult, but he is excited to get back to work and does not regret turning down the fight with Khan, a fight HBO thought it was going to get in July.
"I was supposed to become a star after I beat Alexander, and it didn't happen," Bradley said. "If I beat Amir Khan, it wouldn't have done anything for my career. Would it have put me in position to fight Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather? Not necessarily."
Bradley claims his former promoters were contractually obligated to get him a fight by June 30. Since the Khan fight would have been almost a month later, he said his promotional deal was up. Shaw has said he had an agreement with Dunkin to extend the date because HBO couldn't accommodate the fight before June 30.
"I wanted to fight before June 30," Bradley said. "I come off the fight with Devon and immediately he gets a fight [June 24] and I beat him. And [Shaw and Thompson] wanted me to extend my contract until July 23? I wasn't willing to do it. The money was lucrative with Amir Khan, but I wanted to be promoted and I felt like taking that fight then wouldn't have done anything for my career. We can fight a year or two from now [at welterweight]. There's nothing wrong with that. [Not taking the fight] had nothing to do with the offer. The offer was fine. I wanted to be promoted.
"It's been very frustrating. Last year, I only fought once. I don't understand why. I was coming off one of the biggest wins of my career against [Lamont] Peterson. I was like, 'Let's keep the ball rolling.' They didn't have a fight for me. I was expecting to continue on a roll. But there was never a plan. That's what really bothered me. What is the plan?"
Now, it seems, Bradley has one in place.
'Canelo' back on HBO
The fights aren't done just yet, but Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer and HBO are close to finalizing the Nov. 26 "Boxing After Dark" card. It would be a split-site tripleheader headlined by junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (38-0-1, 28 KOs), coming off a sixth-round TKO of Alfonso Gomez on Sept. 17 in Los Angeles, making his third defense against former welterweight titlist Kermit Cintron (33-4-1, 28 KOs) in Cancun, Mexico.
The opening two bouts would be staged in Cincinnati. That's where hometown fighter Adrien Broner (21-0, 17 KOs) would fight for a vacant junior lightweight belt and stud featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr. (18-0, 10 KOs) would open the show against an opponent to be named.
Schaefer told ESPN.com that Alvarez-Cintron is "basically done; we're just finishing things off."
Broner's opponent hasn't been finalized, but Schaefer said Golden Boy is going through the WBO's rankings to make a deal with the leading available contender. He said Australia's Will Tomlinson turned down the fight. Schaefer said the two opponents now under discussion are Argentina's Vicente Rodriguez (34-2-1, 19 KOs) and Puerto Rico's Roman "Rocky" Martinez (25-1-1, 16 KO), a former titlist who lost his belt to Ricky Burns on a decision in a tremendous fight in September 2010.
Burns was supposed to defend against Broner, but he vacated last month. Martinez didn't fight after losing to Burns until he returned to defeat Daniel Attah in a sixth-round knockout on Oct. 1.
Donaire game plan
Arum had more than one reason to assist in putting on Toshiaki Nishioka's junior featherweight title defense against Rafael Marquez last week at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Sure, Arum was happy to help out friend and top Japanese promoter Akihiko Honda of Teiken Promotions, who was putting on a rare show in the United States to celebrate the 20th anniversary of WOWOW, the Japanese TV network he has provided fights to for years.
But Arum was also looking down the road as one of his own stars, unified bantamweight titleholder Nonito Donaire, prepares to move up in weight.
By featuring Nishioka-Marquez on his "Top Rank Live" series, Arum gave valuable exposure to Nishioka, a top fighter who is not well-known in the U.S., by putting him in with Marquez, who is familiar to American fans because of his all-time-great four-fight series with Israel Vazquez. The plan was to give the winner an eventual lucrative fight with Donaire (26-1, 18 KOs).
"It sets up a fight with Donaire down the road," Arum said.
Nishioka (39-4-3, 24 KOs) won a unanimous decision against Marquez and now looms for Donaire, who must first win an Oct. 22 HBO main event against junior bantamweight titlist Omar Narvaez (35-0-2, 23 KOs), a big underdog who is moving up in weight.
"Nishioka told me and Mr. Honda that he doesn't want to fight again until May or June," Arum said, "which means we would have two Donaire fights before he fights Nishioka."
First is the fight with Narvaez, which would be followed by Donaire's debut at junior featherweight early next year, likely on HBO.
"Whoever we match Donaire with, it will be an HBO kind of fight," Arum said. "HBO looks at Donaire as a future star who is very promotable."
After the Narvaez fight, Arum said, he would like to match Donaire with junior featherweight titlist Jorge Arce or former titlist Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., both of whom he promotes. (Arce stopped Vazquez to win a belt in May, and there has been talk of a rematch.)
Then would come the Nishioka fight -- if Donaire keeps winning.
"He's a very difficult out," Arum said of Nishioka. "When he sits down and starts to blast, he's a very powerful guy. Nishioka and Donaire, that's a very good fight. And it would be big in Asia, a fight between a top Japanese champion and a Filipino."
Guillermo Jones sighting
Chronically inactive cruiserweight titlist Guillermo Jones of Panama will make a rare appearance Nov. 5 when he defends against Mike Marrone (20-3, 15 KOs), of Vero Beach, Fla., 2-3 in his past five fights, at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., promoter Don King announced.
Jones (37-3-2, 29 KOs) has fought just once since September 2008, an 11th-round knockout of former titlist Valery Brudov in October 2010. Jones was to defend against Ryan Coyne on June 25, but the fight was canceled when Jones suffered a back injury a week before the fight when he tripped getting out of the ring following a training session. Later, a proposed August fight against then-interim titlist Yoan Pablo Hernandez also was scratched.
Jones said he hopes the bout with Marrone is the start of an active period.
"The tiger is hungry," Jones said, showing off his improving English skills at a news conference announcing the card this week. "I need some meat. I've only got rice right now. I'll take Mike Marrone's white meat. He better be ready for what I'm going to bring. I'm hungry to defend my title and fight many more bouts."
Also on the card, which is not slated for American television at this point: Miami junior middleweight Joey Hernandez (19-1-1, 11 KOs), who recently signed with King, will meet Elco Garcia (25-7, 12 KOs) of Mexico; Miami's Angelo Santana (11-0, 8 KOs) will face Broderick Antone (11-11-1, 5 KOs) of Troy, N.Y.; and former cruiserweight title challenger Francisco Palacios (20-1, 13 KOs) of Puerto Rico will face an opponent to be determined.
• All-action lightweight titlist Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios (28-0-1, 21 KOs) will make the second defense of his belt against England's John Murray (31-1, 18 KOs) on the HBO PPV undercard of the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito rematch Dec. 3 at Madison Square Garden. Top Rank's Carl Moretti told ESPN.com that he made a deal with Frank Warren, Murray's promoter, on Thursday. "It has to be an entertaining fight. Why? Because Brandon Rios doesn't know how to fight any other way," Moretti said. "He's clearly one of the most entertaining, crowd-pleasing fighters in the game today." Although Murray is coming off his lone defeat, an eighth-round knockout loss to Kevin Mitchell in July, it was a competitive, action-packed fight. The pay-per-view bouts feature fighters from several countries. Cotto is from Puerto Rico, Margarito from Mexico, Rios is a Mexican-American and Murray is from England. The other two televised fights feature Pawel Wolak (Poland) against Delvin Rodriguez (Dominican Republic) and Mike Jones (Philadelphia) against Sebastian Lujan (Argentina). "There will be so many different flags flying that night, you'll think you're at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics," Moretti said. "Maybe we'll do the final press conference at the U.N."
• Seth "Mayhem" Mitchell (23-0-1, 17 KOs), the top American heavyweight prospect, will open HBO's "World Championship Boxing" telecast of the Amir Khan-Lamont Peterson junior welterweight title fight at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 10. Mitchell, who is from nearby Brandywine, Md., and figures to bring a crowd, will be making his HBO debut. He was supposed to be on HBO for the first time Aug. 27 against Mike Mollo, but the card was canceled when main event fighter Robert Guerrero, who was supposed to face Marcos Maidana, suffered a shoulder injury a week before the fight. Mitchell's December opponent isn't set, but Schaefer said Golden Boy is trying to make a deal with Chazz Witherspoon (28-2, 20 KOs), who was one of the possible opponents for the August bout before Mollo got the fight. Witherspoon is scheduled to fight Oct. 22 and would have to win. Whomever he fights, "on Dec. 10 there will be 'Mayhem,'" Mitchell said at Thursday's news conference announcing the card. Also on the card, but not part of the telecast: the return of lightweight contender Anthony Peterson (30-1, 20 KOs), Lamont's brother. Anthony hasn't fought since September 2010, when he was disqualified in the seventh round for repeated low blows against Brandon Rios in a title eliminator.
• Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation" will serve up a match between undefeated lightweight prospects Friday night (11 ET/PT) when 22-year-old Sharif Bogere (20-0, 12 KOs), a native of Uganda living in Las Vegas, faces New Jersey-based Dominican Republic native Francisco Contreras (16-0, 13 KOs) in a scheduled 10-rounder at Texas Station Casino in Las Vegas. "This is my hometown fight," Bogere said. "I don't have to travel and I get to sleep in my own bed. My friends and family will be there watching. I'm going to welcome [Contreras] to Las Vegas and then I'm going to send him packing with a knockout." Bogere said he made the decision to leave Uganda to come to the U.S. because of his career. "I knew I had to make the move in order to reach my ultimate goal," said Bogere, who is trained by Las Vegas' Kenny Adams. "I wasn't getting the proper training in Uganda that I needed to become a world champion. Here in Vegas there are so many pro fighters. I don't have to go far to get the work in that I need to be the best." In the scheduled eight-round co-feature, junior middleweight Jermell Charlo (15-0, 7 KOs) of Houston will meet Francisco Santana (12-2-1, 6 KOs) of Santa Barbara, Calif.
• Top Rank will feature three title bouts over the next two weeks on its "Top Rank Live" series (Fox Deportes). San Antonio's Raul Martinez (28-1, 16 KOs) will fight Mexico's Rodrigo Guerrero (15-3-1, 10 KOs) in a rematch for the 115-pound belt recently vacated by Cristian Mijares. They meet Saturday night in Tijuana, Mexico, although the fight will air on tape delay during the weekend because of Fox Deportes' live coverage of the opener of the American League Championship Series. Martinez won a split decision against Guerrero in a November 2010 title eliminator. On Oct. 15 in Los Mochis, Mexico, Hugo Ruiz (28-1, 25 KOs) will defend his interim bantamweight belt in a rematch against Francisco Arce (31-7-2, 22 KOs) in a battle of Los Mochis rivals. On May 14, Ruiz outpointed Arce in a tremendous action fight in which both men were down twice. On the undercard, Daniel Rosas (12-0, 9 KOs) and Jose Cabrera (20-2-1, 8 KOs) will meet for a vacant interim junior bantamweight belt.
• Promoters Gary Shaw and Ken Thompson, who have worked together co-promoting Timothy Bradley Jr. and Yonnhy Perez on their way to world titles, have teamed to co-promote lightweight prospect Darley Perez (23-0, 18 KOs) of Colombia. Perez, 28, blew by Oscar Meza in a sixth-round knockout win on Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation" last week. "They have successfully promoted the careers of promising young boxers like myself," Perez said. "I am confident they have the blueprint to bring me to get me to a fight for a championship belt. I will put in the work in the ring and make them proud." Said Thompson: "I believe that in Darley Perez we have a future champion in our hands. Darley is a hard-working individual and a hard-hitting fighter. He's the perfect combination of what a promoter looks for in a fighter."
• Star Boxing promoter Joe DeGuardia announced a deal with Spanish-language network Azteca America to televise a series of his cards. The series, called "Star Boxing presents Boxeo Azteca" will debut Oct. 22 (10 p.m. ET) at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, N.J. The first main event of the club-level cards pits Philadelphia prospect Raymond Serrano (16-0, 8 KOs) against Angel Rios (9-7, 6 KOs) of the Bronx, N.Y., in a 10-round junior welterweight bout. DeGuardia said he also has four more dates through December. "Azteca America is a growing network in the U.S. and in boxing," DeGuardia said, "and I am confident that Star Boxing, in its tradition, will provide exciting, competitive fights for the viewing audience." Azteca America is available in more than 40 million homes (9 million of which are Hispanic) in the U.S.
• Welterweight contender Kell Brook (24-0, 16 KOs) of England will face Poland's Rafal Jackiewicz (38-9-1, 19 KOs) in a title eliminator on Saturday in Sheffield, England, where promoter Eddie Hearn announced that the card is sold out. Hearn hopes an impressive win for Brook, 25, will pave the way for him to land a major fight in the United States. "Every time I'm in America, I'm bombarded with questions about Kell," said Hearn, who was in Atlantic City, N.J., last week as promoter for Darren Barker in his loss to middleweight champion Sergio Martinez. "We have already had some interesting offers and it's inevitable that Kell will make his mark there soon. Kell has that crossover appeal, superstar potential that will in time make him a global star. First thing first, he has to deal with Rafal and do it convincingly -- then we are going after that world title." The winner will put himself in position to become the mandatory challenger for titlist Vyacheslav Senchenko.
• While Pacquiao is due to begin the American leg of his training camp at Freddie Roach's Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, Calif., on Monday as he prepares for his third fight with rival Marquez -- Pacquiao trained the past several weeks in his native Philippines -- he is also promoting a card as well. Pacquiao's MP Promotions, along with Top Rank, is putting on a show Oct. 27 at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino at the San Manuel Indian Nation, about an hour from downtown Los Angeles. The nine-bout show includes a trio of Filipino fighters promoted by Pacquiao: former two-time title challenger Bernabe Concepcion (28-5-1, 15 KOs), former junior flyweight titlist Rodel Mayol (29-5-2, 21 KOs) and former flyweight title challenger Richie Mepranum (24-2-1, 5 KOs).
"Kessler and Pavlik refused to fight me. So now I'm in front of the biggest challenge in my career and I want to win and make a statement. After this fight, I want to fight the Super Six winner."
-- Super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute, who will defend his belt against dangerous Glen Johnson on Nov. 5 (Showtime) after Mikkel Kessler and Kelly Pavlik both turned down big offers for the fight
"I don't need to spar with a fighter to know that I can beat him. Yes, I trained with Bute in the past. Yes, we had good sparring together and, yes, I'm very confident I can beat this guy. That's all that needs to be said. I can't lose my next fight with Bute. I'm the one who needs the victory the most. It's a do-or-die situation for me."
-- Former light heavyweight champ Johnson, who sparred with Bute during a recent shared training session and is aiming for the upset
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at danrafaelespn.