By Francisco Salazar
Is Timothy Bradley boxing’s version of a cat having nine lives?
There have been a number of times throughout his professional career the unbeaten Bradley could have suffered the first loss of his career.
He could have lost to Kendall Holt had Holt finished him off after dropping and hurting him twice in their April 2009 fight.
There was the controversial decision last June where a majority of media and boxing fans thought Manny Pacquiao and not Bradley should have had his hand raised in victory last June.
Then there was the Fight of the Year candidate between Bradley and Ruslan Provodnikov in March of this year. A round scored in favor of Provodnikov instead of Bradley (as well as a possible missed knockdown) would have given Bradley the first defeat of his career.
Regardless of these setbacks, Bradley is still unbeaten and feeling as confident, if not more, heading into Saturday’s welterweight showdown against Juan Manuel Marquez at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, NV.
The scheduled 12 round bout headlines a Top Rank card that will be televised on HBO Pay Per View.
No one will question the heart and tenacity Bradley has demonstrated in his 30-fight professional career. Aside from skill, some of that heart and tenacity willed him to victories, some of which may have been defeats had those attributes not been in play.
The one question that will be on the minds of fight fans and media is that if Bradley is biting more than he could chew in his upcoming fight against Marquez.
Bradley received some brutal punishment in the beginning and at the end of his fight with Provodnikov. Marquez scored his most gratifying victory in December, knocking out Manny Pacquiao with one brutal punch back in December.
Now it may not be fair to Bradley to make that comparison. Just because he was hurt against Provodnikov and Marquez sent Pacquiao down and out may not add up to that on Saturday night.
It is hard not to take that notion into consideration though. To Bradley, he welcomes people making that assumption, but he is ready to prove people wrong.
“Márquez is probably the best fighter I will have ever faced in my career, by far,” said Bradley during a recent conference call to promote the fight. “I always knew I could beat Márquez, even when he went back and fought with Juan Diaz. I felt that I could have been in there and done a lot better.”
“But this fight is happening now and I am going to prove to the world that I am a top fighter, one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the game. I am going to beat Márquez, you heard it here first, and we’ll see what the people say after that.”
Bradley is never one to mince words. Maybe he has found a way to beat Marquez after the hours of tape he and his team have seen.
He has stuck to game plans, which has allowed him to win fights rather comfortably. Then again, he has strayed away from those game plans, making fights difficult for himself. No better example of that was in his war with Provodnikov, where some people believe he dodged a bullet.
Bradley (30-0, 12 KOs) thinks Marquez chose a fight with him rather than a lucrative fifth fight with Pacquiao because Bradley may be damaged goods.
That is nothing new to Bradley, who not only was cleared by doctors to fight again despite suffering a concussion in the Provodnikov fight, but believes he is still the same effective and dangerous fighter.
“Everybody is looking at my last fight and everybody is looking at his last fight,” said Bradley, who is trained by Joel Diaz and resides in Palm Springs, CA. “Everyone remembers when he knocked out Pacquiao. Everyone remembers that war (I had) with Ruslan Provodnikov. A lot of people think I am going to be wild and go down and people have to see if I still have it or not.”
“Of course they are going for the veteran, the guy that knocked out Pacquiao so of course they are going to bet on him to win. I don’t mind being the underdog. I like it. I like taking people’s money and I’ll take it again. People can doubt me and doubt me and that’s okay, but soon they will get sick of losing their money.”
Bradley has mostly made for exciting fights within the last couple of years. Based on their styles, writers and fight fans have been anticipating a back and forth bout for Saturday.
While Bradley believes a victory over Marquez will give him the respect he deserves, along with the bigger paydays, the 30-year-old has been a fan of Marquez’s for many years.
“I have always been a fan of Márquez. I always thought he was a great fighter and I still think he’s a great fighter. I want to fight the best to be the best in this sport.”
“Márquez has fought everybody. He never ducked anybody. He’s been in there with Mayweather. He fought Pacquiao four times. He is one of the best counter-punchers in the game. People struggle when they fight this guy. He either knocks them out or he wins a decision because he is a great counter-puncher. He’s that best name on my resume.”
Bradley may or may not have a legion of fans as Marquez does. He may or may not be a household name. He may or may not sell arenas.
The one consistent thing he has done throughout his pro career is win. How has he done it? Tenacity, talent, heart, and fortitude.
He may win on Saturday, scoring another important victory in his career against Marquez. Or he may lose, giving him his first loss of his professional career.
But answer this question: Is one to think any less of him as a fighter or as a person regardless of the outcome on Saturday?
He may have nine lives to have remained an unbeaten fighter. But he will still fight with heart on his sleeve, eager to prove people wrong.
That may be his best quality yet.
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Knockout Nation, and The Ring. He could be reached by email at [email protected] or on twitter at FSalazarBoxing.