Not to go all Dennis Green on Timothy Bradley, but I can imagine Freddie Roach telling people in the Wild Card Gym about a year and a half ago, that Bradley “is what the f*** we thought he was… And we let him off the hook!”
He’s very crafty in a rather Jersey Joe Walcott kind of way, and has elements of Bernard Hopkins in his prime, in that he has the ability to just avoid being hit cleanly. He turns away from punches really well. Emerging from Sparta when he enters the ring though devoid of serious thunder, he’s like a pit-bull with a toy terrier’s bite. His punch might make you go, “Ouch! Wtf man?”, but it’s not like he’s going to maim you or anything.
His head however… Well, that a different story. Tim’s head is a little bit of a problem, and can be a rather devastating situation to deal with if he manages to head-butt your ass.
Ask Devon Alexander.
It wasn't that he fouled Devon intentionally and ended the fight; it’s just that Bradley’s game involved a form of rugged science that made Alexander essentially quit.
But to appreciate just how savvy, smart and nuanced he really is, one only needs to watch his first encounter with Manny Pacquiao. Bradley realized right away that he wasn't facing Luis Carlos Abregu, and that he couldn't muscle Manny around or come forward and engage.
He would've been stopped.
Instead, Tim adjusted to the speed he decided he couldn't match by developing escape routes and exit plans on the fly. He got really good at it during the championship rounds- two of which he clearly won – and it’s the way I expect he'll be in “The Sequel”. Bradley will fight like a guy that’s willing to die but ready to survive.
Why do I lead the caption with Manny Pacquiao? He is, after all, the challenger and was beaten by Bradley while losing his WBO welterweight title in the process.
Then again that’s a lie.
Prior to that night on June 9, 2012 the last time Pacquiao lost was to Erik Morales via points in 2005. It was a fight that the still very raw Pacquiao clearly lost. This was different.
To paraphrase, I know Marvin Hagler doesn’t feel this way (and please bear in mind that Hagler was my favorite fighter as a child), but I thought Sugar Ray Leonard won 8 or 9 rounds from Hagler.
That’s how clearly I thought Pacquiao had done enough to defend his title with a very workman-like (if not scintillating) effort.
Plus he was, and still is, the draw.
The Manny Pacquiao we witnessed in summer 2012 was in the process of some sort of dark catharsis. He was still re-assembling a marriage he did a lot to destroy and renouncing the Catholic Church. He traded in his rosary beads for the basic tenets of Christianity and took an opposing side to Gay Marriage.
He faced a lot of opposition in Washington, the same Washington who couldn't have been more supportive of the congressman around the time he fought Shane Mosley in April 2011.
Anyway, you figure that out in relation to his subsequent and sudden tax problems.
Fast forward to late January 2014.
Pacquiao has fully recovered from a shocking electrocution at the hands of arch-nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez before dominating him, and is fresh off of a very athletic and aesthetically riveting desecration of Brandon Rios.
In the middle of this, two things happened. Freddie Roach unleashed the powerful, but one dimensional, Ruslan Provodnikov on Bradley with great success.
In many ways, “Provo” was able to essentially ‘bum rush’ Bradley at times in limited spurts. He floored and hurt Bradley badly in this fight, but isn't nearly as skilled or as layered in ring generalship as Pacquiao.
The 2nd thing that happened was Bradley’s encounter with Juan Manuel Marquez. He won- but he really didn't beat Marquez. Juan was a slower, but still great, counter-puncher who needs his opponents’ aggression to shine.
Freddie watched Bradley keep Marquez in the dark, but I believe he saw enough light at the end of the tunnel.
Pacquiao was a noticeably better technical fighter in rematches with Morales, Barrera, and Marquez. Armed with enough data and the incentive of becoming a world champion yet again, in addition to a refurbished yearning to destroy an athlete who hails from Grand Rapids, MI., and Pacquiao should stop Bradley.
The real behind the scenes march will begin shortly as we countdown to April 12th, with training camps for both fighters a few weeks away.
It will be “March Madness” indeed.