Timothy Bradley Jr., seeking a fifth world title, faces Jessie Vargas

Timothy Bradley Jr., seeking a fifth world title, faces Jessie Vargas
Timothy Bradley will fight Jesse Vargas for theinterim WBO welterweight championship. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

It's not even July, and Timothy Bradley Jr. has Christmas on his mind.

Specifically, the four-time world champion is thinking about Christmas cards. He has five children, and for season's greetings this year, he wants to send family and friends a picture of all his kids, each with a title belt wrapped around the waist.


In order to get that fifth title, Bradley (31-1-1, 12 knockouts) has to best Jessie Vargas on Saturday night at StubHub Center for the interim WBO welterweight championship in an HBO fight.

Oddsmakers have made Bradley, 31, a 4-to-1 favorite over the younger Vargas (26-0, nine KOs), who is moving up a weight class after spending two years as a super lightweight. And while Vargas, 26, holds the WBA super-lightweight title, he has never faced a top-ranked opponent like Bradley.

Not that that's affected his confidence.

"This is what I've been waiting for for years. This opportunity right here, to be shown worldwide, for the world to see what my ability, what my talent is in the boxing ring," Vargas said at a news conference Thursday. "Finding ways to make it difficult for Tim will show them Jessie Vargas is the real deal."

For his part, Bradley said he has had no trouble staying focused for this fight. Besides his desire for a fifth title, Bradley remembers being in Vargas' position half a decade ago and knows his opponent will swing freely with nothing to lose.

And it's not as if Bradley has nothing to prove. After being unbeaten for the first 10 years of his pro career, Bradley lost a unanimous 12-round decision to Manny Pacquiao in April 2014, and then battled to a 12-round draw against Diego Gabriel Chavez in December in a fight most observers scored in Bradley's favor.

His trainer, Joel Diaz, said Bradley has three more years left of world-class boxing ahead of him. Under that timeline, Bradley doesn't have too many fights left, and he has said he wants to take on the best in the world.

Among possible opponents Bradley could face is Juan Manuel Marquez, whom Bradley defeated in a controversial split decision in October 2013. Bradley also said he is willing to move up in weight to fight undefeated middleweight champ Gennady Golovkin.

When a reporter brought up the possibility of his fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr., Bradley acknowledged that the unbeaten welterweight and super-welterweight champ, the world's top-rated pound-for-pound boxer, might not want to face him, but said he would be more than willing.

Bradley hopes to fight again in December, provided he does not sustain any injuries Saturday. But if things turn out like his last fight at StubHub Center, he might not want to plan too far ahead.

In March 2013, against Ruslan Provodnikov, Bradley sustained a concussion in the first round and was knocked down in the final round, but survived 12 brutal rounds to claim the close but unanimous decision. The bout was voted fight of the year.

Bradley and Vargas both seem to think Saturday's bout will go 12 rounds; neither fighter has knocked out an opponent since 2011.

Bob Arum has promoted the fight as a title bout, but Mayweather still holds the WBO welterweight belt. After Mayweather defeated Pacquiao in May, Mayweather indicated he would vacate the title but he is still listed on the WBO's website as the official champ.

In the co-main event Saturday night, Oscar Valdez (15-0, 14 KOs), a two-time Olympian for Mexico, will take on former title contender Ruben Tamayo (25-5-4, 17 KOs) in a 10-round featherweight bout.