No one truly knows what will happen inside a boxing ring until the first bell sounds, but there are pairings whose styles ignite interest the moment their names are spoken. Timothy Bradley and Brandon Rios is such a pairing, for Bradley is a boxer who likes to slug and Rios is a slugger who is capable of landing jabs at an impressive rate. Both have warrior mentalities and if Bradley opts to unleash his "Desert Storm" on "Bam Bam" the boxing world may experience a night -- and a fight -- to remember.
Bradley's Best Punch: Bradley's greatest weapon, beyond question, is his jab. When he uses it, he's extremely effective but when he doesn't (or when he can't) he struggles. The average welterweight lands 5.5 jabs per round and during those fights in which he's exceeded that number he's done well. For instance, he averaged 7.4 against Jessie Vargas (W 12), 6.6 versus Diego Chaves (a D 12 that many thought should have been a win), 6.8 against Juan Manuel Marquez (W 12) and 10.8 against Ruslan Provodnikov (W 12). That success with boxing's building-block blow allowed Bradley to strike more accurately with his power shots (43% vs. Provodnikov and Chaves, 38% vs. Marquez and 41% vs. Vargas) and out-land his opponents by a combined 246 punches overall. But when Bradley chooses not to use the jab, as was the case during his rematch with Manny Pacquiao, the rest of his game faltered. He averaged just 2.7 jab connects per round to Pacquiao's 4.2, landed 32% of his power shots to Pacquiao's 43% and was out-landed 198-141 overall, 50-32 jabs and 148-109 power. Thus, if he wants to beat Rios, he should forget about the promises to slug and stick to science.
Resurrection or Mirage?: Rios looked superb during his rubber match with Mike Alvarado. The high-volume/high-accuracy attack of his prime returned (96.7 punches per round; 41% overall, 51% power) and his jab, an underrated weapon, was a fine form (30.7 thrown/6.7 connects per round). In less than three rounds Rios had landed 100 more punches overall (120-20) and 87 more power shots (100-13). That said, these numbers were produced against an out-of-shape, unmotivated and distracted opponent who had lost three of his last four fights, two by KO. Was this performance more about bad Alvarado than good Rios? In the three fights before then Rios was out-boxed against Alvarado (fight two) and Pacquiao and was fortunate to escape with a DQ win against Diego Chaves. In those bouts Rios averaged an anemic (for him) 54.1 punches per round to his opponents' 67.6, couldn't land his jab consistently (19.8 thrown/3.5 connects per round to 28/5.5 for his foes) and was on the wrong end of the percentage game (30%-32% overall, 18%-20% jabs, 37%-40% power). Which is the real Rios?
Prediction: If Bradley practices the mental discipline new trainer Teddy Atlas preaches, he should out-box Rios. But if he slugs with the slugger there will be trouble, especially in round 12 where he has been floored and hurt badly. The guess here: Bradley W 12.