When WBO welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley skips up the steps and slinks through the ropes Saturday night in his rematch against Manny Pacquiao he will be a man on a personal mission. Although he was awarded a decision victory over Pacquiao in June 2012 it was a hollow win. Most everyone who viewed that bout (except for two of the three official judges) pegged Pacquiao as the clear winner. So Bradley’s goal, when he squares off against Pacquiao again will be to release himself from the weight of that controversial decision which has hung around his neck like a dead albatross for most of the past two years.
“Everyone said I didn’t win, but I did win the fight,” said Bradley on Sunday, his last day of hard training. “I wasn’t the one judging the fight and because everyone said I didn’t win the fight I didn’t get any credit. I lost the credit from the fans. I lost the credit from the world. I lost the credit from boxing. I am going to beat him decisively this time, no questions asked. I want it to be to a point where nobody can say, ‘Who you got?’ No, I want everyone to be able to say ‘Bradley won the fight.’ That’s it.”
Bradley has found himself in a most unusual position over the past two years. It is one almost unprecedented in the long and storied history of boxing: A fighter judged to have won a fight becomes the one that must consistently prove himself. Bradley is the betting underdog going into Saturday’s rematch which is a reflection of the way the first bout was waged. The bottom line is that Pacquiao won the fight but Bradley got the decision.
“I have a lot to prove in this fight, and number one is that the first fight was not a fluke,” explains Bradley. “I‘m a different fighter now, a different beast. I’m a different animal this time around and I’m going to prove to the fans and everybody watching. I got the win but it felt like I lost because I didn’t get any credit from the fans and it’s important to get the credit from the fans. I feel I need to showcase myself and win by a large margin.”
Bradley has scored two great victories since the first fight with Pacquiao. He engaged in the 2013 Fight of the Year against Ruslan Provodnikov which was a back and forth Pier 6 brawl. In a signature victory and likely his best performance as a professional, he out boxed the brilliant Juan Manuel Marquez and beat him at his own game. In those two wins he proved everything that a prizefighter could in absorbing punishment, dishing out punishment and then later displaying beautiful boxing skills.
It would seem his best chance for victory would be to outbox Pacquiao who has promised to be more aggressive, bring the fight to him and knock him out if the opportunity presents itself. When pressed for how he will counter Pacquiao’s rushes, Bradley was non-committal.
“Everybody is going to have to tune in to see which Timothy Bradley is going to show up. I am not going to give away my game plan right now,” he said. “Everyone knows what Manny Pacquiao is going to do. The one thing I have learned is to not be reckless and not get away from the game plan and listen to my corner, so that won’t happen in this one.”
Once the criticism over the decision in the first Pacquiao fight died down, it allowed Bradley to find himself as a prizefighter. Having been a pro for nearly a decade and having had his best year in 2013 his confidence is at an all-time high. Undefeated at 31-0, he recently signed a multi-million dollar promotional contract extension, is now comfortable on the big stage and he knows he can hang with the best fighters in the world.
“I know what I am capable of doing,” he says. “If I need to dig down deep I know I have it in there. If I need to outbox the guy I know I have it in there. There is nothing I cannot do in the ring. I have the whole package. The only thing I may lack is, and I have fought a lot of great fighters, is power.”
But if Timothy Bradley really beats Manny Pacquiao on Saturday night, he’ll be more powerful than ever.
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