By Sean Crose
“I’ve got a lot to prove in this fight.”
Thus said WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley during a Thursday conference call to promote his upcoming rematch with Manny Pacquiao. He was right. He does have a lot to prove. Most people felt Pacquiao got robbed the last time around, after all. What’s more, a lot of those people took their frustration out on Bradley himself. It wasn’t right, but it was what it was. In fact, the man still doesn’t get the attention he probably deserves, even after winning a war with Ruslan Provodnikov and outmaneuvering Juan Manuel Marquez in the same year.
“Nobody comes around to Tim Bradley’s gym to see how he’s doing,” Bradley’s trainer, Joel Diaz, pointed out. Not that he sees that as being an entirely bad thing. “He’s (Bradley’s) very ready to come to Vegas to ruin the party for a lot of people again.”
Indeed, team Bradley is acutely aware that it’s Pacquiao who will be the star of this show. Not that they mind too terribly. For they’re perfectly confident that the night will ultimately belong to them. “Tim has all the weapons packed up and ready to go,” claimed Diaz excitedly before boldly stating that “we’re ready for anything.”
Bradley, too, was brimming with self-assurance over the phone. Gone was the dour soul who recently confronted Pacquiao before Max Kellerman on HBOs Face Off. Here, instead, was a polite, energetic young guy who didn’t betray a trace of anger. “The fight’s on, man,” he proclaimed. “Absolutely.”
As positive as the mood was during the conference call, however, both Bradley and Diaz referred back to the dark days. “I felt like I lost,” Bradley said of his feelings after the first fight with Pacquiao. Not that he truly felt he had been beaten. He just felt like the fans were treating him like the loser of the bout instead of like the man he truly was – the man who had been awarded the victory. It was clearly an unhappy time. “He had a lot of anger in him,” remembered Diaz.
Those days seem to be over, however. “That’s all died down now,” the man they call Desert Storm said of the hatred he received after beating Pacquiao. Still, people remember that night. And Bradley knows they remember it. Yet he also feels his opponent has a lot riding on their April 12th matchup, as well. “I’m telling you man,” said Bradley, “both of us have a lot to prove in this fight,”
The fact is that both Bradley and Diaz appeared during the conference to be fully aware of the reality that the Filipino star will be showing up with his A-Game. “Manny Pacquiao is a fighter who brings it,” said Diaz. Even Bradley himself brought up the fact that “It only takes one punch to end the night.”
Bradley, however, is a man on a mission. “ I want the credit from the fans,” he declared hungrily. “I want the credit from the world. I want the credit from boxing.”
Frankly, he deserves that credit, whether he wins this rematch or not. For while Floyd Mayweather continues on his leisurely retirement tour, while Adonis Stevenson steps away from Sergey Kovalev, Tim Bradley continues to take on dangerous competition. Again. And again. And again. He may not prove to be the best come April 12th, but he’s definitely earned the right to be called a champion. Is that corny to say? Perhaps. But it’s true.
Besides, what’s wrong with a loss when it comes at the hands of someone like Pacquiao? Ali lost. Leonard did, too. Yet fans are still talking about them. Hearns lost the two biggest fights of his career. He’s still a legend, though. “Being unbeaten is a great accomplishment,” said Bradley, “but it’s not everything in boxing.”
True enough. The man still, however, had more to say. “I want,” he proclaimed, “to fight the best out there.” Maybe he could talk to some other famous fighters we all know.