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Bradley surprised Pacquiao called about third fight

Timothy Bradley Jr. wasn’t expecting to hear from Manny Pacquiao again. But the World Boxing Organization welterweight super champion is glad Pacquiao chose to fight him again.

“Honestly, I didn’t think he’d call,” Bradley said Tuesday in Los Angeles at a news conference to open the promotion for the third fight between the two. “But I think it was meant to be.”

Bradley, 32, has begun preparations for the April 9 fight at the MGM Grand Garden and will open his training camp Feb. 15 in Indio, California.

“I need six good weeks and I’m ready,” said Bradley (33-1-1, 13 knockouts). “I’m going to train hard like I always do, but I’m also going to train smart.

“Here’s the thing: We know Pacquiao. There’s no secrets. We know what he’s going to do. I’ve been in the ring with him twice. I know what to expect, so we don’t need eight weeks to prepare.

“If it was someone I’ve never fought, that might be different. We might want to take a little more time to make sure we don’t overlook anything. But with Pacquiao, we’re already familiar with him.”

Bradley’s trainer, Teddy Atlas, said he sees flaws in the 37-year-old congressman from the Philippines who is 57-6-2 with 38 knockouts. Atlas said he will have a plan to exploit those flaws and take advantage of Bradley’s strengths, much the same way he did when Bradley knocked out Brandon Rios in Atlas’ first fight as Bradley’s trainer, on Nov. 7 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“What Tim did against Rios is only the beginning,” Atlas said. “We only had six weeks together for that fight. But we know each other a lot better, and we’re going to build on what Tim did in his last fight.

“The foundation has been laid. Now we’re going to finish building the house.”

VARGAS-ALI TALKS — After several months of negotiating, it appears Las Vegas welterweight Jessie Vargas and Sadam Ali are close to finalizing a fight.

According to Vargas’ manager, Cameron Dunkin, the fight would be March 5 on HBO at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California. It would be for the WBO regular title that Bradley held before being promoted to super champion.

“It’s been a tough negotiation,” Dunkin said Thursday, “but this is a fight that makes sense, and both sides want it. It’s just a matter of getting the details worked out.”

Vargas (26-1, nine KOs) hasn’t fought since losing a 12-round unanimous decision to Bradley on June 27 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. Ali, a 2008 Olympian from Brooklyn, New York, last fought April 25, when he won a 10-round unanimous decision over Francisco Santana at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The two didn’t meet last year because Vargas refused to fight in New York and Ali didn’t want to fight in Las Vegas or California. But Ali apparently has relented.

“We’re getting to the point where we have to make a decision one way or the other,” Dunkin said. “Top Rank (Vargas’ promoter) and HBO both want an answer.”

THURMAN-PORTER SET — The much anticipated welterweight showdown between Shawn Porter and World Boxing Association champ Keith Thurman has been finalized.

The bout will be March 12 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. CBS will televise the 12-round fight, which will be promoted by DiBella Entertainment as part of the Premier Boxing Champions series.

The fight was initially targeted for March 5 in Las Vegas, but the sides couldn’t reach terms.

SANTA CRUZ RETURNS — World featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz makes the first defense of his WBA title Feb. 27 against Kiko Martinez at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, on Showtime.

Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 KOs), who is from Rosemead, California, is coming off a sensational performance Aug. 29 when he defeated Abner Mares in a 12-round majority decision at the Staples Center in Los Angeles in one of boxing’s best fights of 2015. Santa Cruz also has won world championships at 118 and 122 pounds, and has fought for world titles in 10 of his past 12 bouts.

“I’ve been in the gym staying ready for anyone that’s put in front of me,” Santa Cruz said.

Martinez (35-6, 26 KOs) is a former International Boxing Federation super bantamweight champion. The 29-year-old from Valenciana, Spain, moved up to 126 pounds last year and won both of his fights.

— Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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