- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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GRAPEVINE, Texas -- Junior welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr., the No. 1-rated 140-pounder in the world since pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao's exit from the division, has been fighting on Showtime while rival HBO has been putting together fight after fight between all of his most significant potential opponents.
That left Bradley on the outside looking in at the big matches in his division -- until Thursday, when HBO reached an agreement with Gary Shaw, Bradley's co-promoter with Thompson Boxing, to bring him to the network, Cameron Dunkin, Bradley's manager, told ESPN.com.
Bradley's HBO debut will come June 26 on "Boxing After Dark" in a nontitle bout over the 140-pound division limit against welterweight brawler Luis Carlos Abregu (29-0, 23 KOs), who has been approved by the network. The fight will likely take place at the Agua Caliente resort in Rancho Mirage, Calif., just a few miles from Bradley's hometown of Palm Springs and where he has had his last two fights.
"Tim wants to fight the best 140-pounders in the world -- Amir Khan, Devon Alexander, [Marcos] Maidana, you name it," Dunkin said at the Gaylord Texan hotel, the fight headquarters for Saturday's Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey fight at Cowboys Stadium in nearby Arlington. "Hopefully, this is the start of getting those big fights."
It is, as long as he wins. HBO's intention is to put Bradley squarely into the mix of major fights at junior welterweight, where it has what amounts to an informal tournament going on.
Last week, HBO aired an Alexander fight for the first time and he scored a sensational eighth-round knockout of Juan Urango in a title unification bout, and it has plans to air Alexander's next fight, a possible showdown with Zab Judah this summer.
HBO also has three other important bouts in the division already on its schedule: March 27, when Maidana defends his interim belt against hot contender Victor Cayo and May 15, when Khan defends his belt against former titleholder Paulie Malignaggi with Victor Ortiz facing Nate Campbell in the co-feature. HBO is also talking with Top Rank promoter Bob Arum about a summer junior welterweight bout between undefeated former lightweight titlist Edwin Valero, who is moving up in weight, and Lamont Peterson.
Now, with Bradley (25-0, 11 KOs) in the mix, HBO hopes a series of bouts can eventually crown a top dog at 140 pounds.
Dunkin said Bradley's title won't be at stake against Abregu because a top opponent was not available for the date, so he'll face Argentina native Abregu, who has also fought on Showtime, including his 10-round decision win against Richard Gutierrez in a slugfest last month.
"He's a really strong guy with a good chin and he's bigger than Tim. He's physical and puts on great fights," Dunkin said of the 27-year-old Abregu.
Said Sean Gibbons, Abregu's agent, "It's a great opportunity for Abregu to be on HBO. He's a bigger, stronger guy than Bradley and he's got nothing to lose by taking the fight. We can't wait."
Bradley, 26, outpointed England's Junior Witter to win a title in 2008. He unified two belts last April by surviving two knockdowns to win a unanimous decision against Kendall Holt, but was forced to vacate one of the belts.
In his most recent fight, Bradley scored a near-shutout of previously undefeated mandatory challenger Peterson in December.
Bradley had appeared numerous times on Showtime, including in his last five fights. However, Dunkin said the network did not have a contract with him, which allowed Shaw to make the deal with HBO.
"Timmy did not sign a thing with Showtime," Dunkin said. "He certainly appreciates what they have done for him and he loves Showtime, but he has to take this opportunity."
Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer.
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