By Matthew Hurley: On June 9, 2012 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas Timothy Bradley struck gold, or fool’s gold, when he was awarded a dubious decision victory over WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao. It was the kind of outcome that makes boxing fans roll their eyes in dismay. But there were some who felt the bout was a lot closer than the majority and that Bradley could provide a breath of fresh air in a boxing landscape dominated by endless accounts of why Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather still had not swapped punches yet.
In effect, Bradley beat the man, the most popular fighter in the sport and he expected all the accolades, endorsements and big money bouts that come with being the man. But just because you beat the man it doesn’t make you the man, an unfair reality in such a brutal sport to be sure, and Bradley must have known his fate when Pacquiao simply shrugged his shoulders, waved off a rematch and decided to move in another direction.
“I chose to fight (Juan Manuel) Marquez again because we have exciting fights,” he said after distancing himself from Bradley. “I have nothing to prove against Bradley. I proved it already. It was a one sided fight, and I won the fight.”
Still, Pacquiao’s decision to fight Marquez for the fourth time instead rankled a public appreciative of the rivalry but wary of another controversial outcome. Pacquiao, it seemed, could do nothing right. He wasn’t fighting Mayweather or one of the young guns waiting to take him out when they noticed him slowing down . . . or that guy. What was his name? The one that beat him, but didn’t really win.
Such was Bradley’s reality.
It turns out, for Marquez and everyone who saw the fight at least, Pacquiao made the right decision. The end result shook things up, perhaps finally ridding us of anymore Pacquiao – Mayweather nonsense. Which means Pacquiao, who wants a fifth fight with Marquez but may not get it, will move on and Mayweather will probably fight Robert Guerrero, but who for the moment is up to his usual mind games and has several fighters on the fence all hoping they get their big money shot. Toss in exciting opponents like Brandon Rios, Danny Garcia, Lucas Matthysse and Saul Alvarez and you’ve got several very good potential match ups – as long as the warring Top Rank and Golden Boy promotional firms don’t continue to piss all over the sport.
And then there’s Timothy Bradley, who last we saw win a decision over Pacquiao on boxing’s biggest stage, preparing for his ring return in California. It’s a big step down from where he was, or where he thought he was after beating Pac-Man. But Bradley is a professional and despite the letdown don’t look for Desert Storm to be in anything less than 100% condition and seeking a performance, against a pretty tough fighter, that will hopefully remind those who have forgotten about him just how good a fighter he remains.
But was too much time spent withering on the vine while trying to get someone who could make him some big money sign on the dotted line? Bradley has never been a hugely popular fighter and his style, which can lead to tedious contests, will never bring him the crowd support promoters desire. Even with a belt and impressive accomplishments worthy of bragging rights Bradley will probably always be the B-side to any big fight in his future – should he even get the big fights.
But Bradley, who looks like a miniature Marvelous Marvin Hagler with his shaved head and royal blue trunks, should embrace this role as Hagler did, albeit angrily, and carve a niche out for himself and simply force the big fights to come to him no matter how long it takes.
And it all starts with Ruslan Provodinkov, which Bradley acknowledged at a press conference last week.
“March 16 will be the first step in doing what I did as the light welterweight champion, cleaning house.”