Bradley’s next fight would be against Juan Manuel Marquez, a brilliant ring strategist who at one point was rated as the world’s third-best Pound-for-Pound fighter behind Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and an outstanding defensive fighter and counterpuncher. He sets traps that he springs with the cunning of a spider. Marquez knocked out Pacquiao with a counter right hand that Pacquiao hasn’t seen to this day.
“Marquez always said the reason he was always going to beat Pacquiao is because he’s smarter than Pacquiao,’’ Bradley said. “I was able to out-think him (Marquez). I was able to use my maturity, listen to my corner this time and I was able to follow the game plan all the way to the end. I feel that I’ve matured as a fighter because of that.’’
The victories over Provodnikov and Marquez – achieved in different ways – have helped to drown out some of the white noise from the Pacquiao fight. But it has not dissipated completely. Bradley wants to completely erase it. That is why he is anxious for the rematch against Pacquiao.
“I’ve grown as a person. I’ve grown as a fighter,’’ Bradley said. “I feel like the stage is set up even brighter now. This fight is way bigger than the first fight because of where I’m at now in the sport of boxing and what I’ve earned. Pacquiao is in a different position from where he was. This fight is even bigger. I feel like I need the credit from the fans.’’
Throughout his career Bradley has grudgingly earned the respect of the fans. Perhaps it was because he wasn’t one of those highly touted amateur boxers destined for greatness. He started boxing at 10 years old and had 140 amateur fights. He says he doesn’t know how many of those he lost.
He had a respectable amateur career, participating in tournaments throughout the world as a member of the U.S. National team. He was a two-time National Champion, a Junior Golden Gloves Champion and a Police Athletics League National Champion. There was no Olympic glory. After losing in the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials to Vanes Martiroysan, Bradley turned pro.
Bradley, a workmanlike boxer with very little flair, built himself into a contender and a champion based on his willingness to travel and take on all comers. He was not making enough money as a boxer to sustain himself and his family so he worked as a dishwasher at one restaurant and a waiter at another while continuing to train and fight.
He had been hardwired for hard work. He watched his father do it every day he was growing up. After moving from Louisiana to California, Ray Bradley worked construction. Later he became a skycap at the Palm Springs Airport.
“I was working the swing shift,’’ Ray Bradley said. “I would work from 4 o’clock in the morning, get off at noon and go back at 5 in the afternoon and get off at 2 o’clock in the morning. Long day. But I had to do it. Had to take care of the family.’’
Bradley has been able to earn considerably more than his father did as a skycap. But it has taken him nearly a decade to reach the point where he can command the $6 million guaranteed purse he will get for the Pacquiao rematch.
It seems so long ago that he took a financial gamble to go to England to fight for his first world championship against Junior Witter.
Bradley had spent all the money he earned as a dishwasher and waiter to train for the match against Witter and had $11 in his bank account when he got on the plane to travel to Nottingham, England. He dropped Witter in the sixth round en route to a close, 12-round split decision to win the World Boxing Council junior welterweight title in 2008.
It was then that he thought back to something a homeless man told him when he was a teenager fighting in an amateur tournament in New Orleans. Bradley bought the man a meal at McDonald’s.
“I came back and gave it to him and he shook my hand,’’ Bradley said. “He grabbed my hand and said let me read your palm. I stuck my hand out. He started reading my palm. He said, ‘I don’t know what you do, but whatever you do, you’re going to be very successful at it and you’re going to be super rich.’ I was like get out of here. Are you serious?’’
Bradley has the success part down. And he’s working on the rich thing. That could be in the future if he gets past Pacquiao and can get to Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
Having beaten Pacquiao and Marquez, Bradley would have a chance at a boxing trifecta. But he isn’t holding his breath on landing a fight with Mayweather.
“I win this fight (rematch against Pacquiao) and everybody will be screaming for a Mayweather-Tim Bradley fight,’’ he said. “I’m here, but we’re on different paths. If Mayweather wants to join my path, he can. He’s his own boss. If he doesn’t, he can do what he does and I’ll do what I do. I have my own legacy to worry about.’’