Timothy Bradley decided he needed new promoters while driving through the deserted streets of frigid Detroit in a rented van last January.
The undefeated 140-pound champion from the California desert couldn’t fathom why he had to defend his title in Michigan’s dilapidated, cavernous Silverdome in the dead of winter. He also couldn’t understand why his opponent, Devon Alexander, was rolling in a limousine.
“Not that those things matter, but I didn’t feel like a champion,” Bradley said.
Eight months later, Bradley (27-0, 11 KOs) has joined industry leader Top Rank, which believes the personable Palm Springs brawler should be a superstar.
He’ll fight veteran Joel Casamayor on Nov. 12 on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s third fight with Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas. He’s widely expected to be Pacquiao’s next opponent if Floyd Mayweather Jr. again refuses the bout.
Top Rank hasn’t promised a Pacquiao fight to Bradley. Chairman Bob Arum says he has never mentioned Bradley’s name to the Filipino pound-for-pound king. The potential superbout with Mayweather will always be Pacquiao’s first choice, but a meeting with Bradley is moving up the list.
“We didn’t sign Tim based on baloney, based on false promises,” Arum said. “(But) if the stars are aligned, that’s the fight we’d be inclined to make.”
Bradley insists he didn’t move to Top Rank just to get Pacquiao, and it’s not tough to believe him. The 28-year-old veteran rose from Southern California’s hotel ballrooms and Indian casinos to the heights of the competitive 140-pound division, but he has only a fraction of his peers’ fame and fortune.
“It’s been a little frustrating, because I see other fighters, and they’re shining,” Bradley said. “I was always told to go at my pace and not worry about what other fighters do, but it’s hard not to. I’ve seen this promotional company, how they build their fighters from the ground up, and I want to be a part of that.”
Bradley appeared both relaxed and eager while speaking over lunch at the exclusive Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Arum and President Todd duBoef rented out the back room of the restaurant to welcome Bradley to Top Rank, already fulfilling their vow to expose Bradley to the finest things in boxing.
Yet Bradley isn’t just about the money. He surprised many by turning down a $1.4 million payday for a fight with British champion Amir Khan this summer, believing the bout wouldn’t help his career.
Bradley also was determined to leave promoters Gary Shaw and Ken Thompson. On top of the Detroit debacle, Bradley’s manager, Cameron Dunkin, is embroiled in a feud with Shaw. Bradley wanted a fresh start, and though there’s still some legal wrangling left to do, he’s free to move on with his career.
When Dunkin called, Top Rank seized the chance to add another champion to its stable. DuBoef believes Bradley has both ingredients necessary for a star — ability and marketability.
“People will like him,” Arum said. “People will follow him. People will root for him.”
Although Bradley is unbeaten, his entertainment value as a fighter has been questioned. He hasn’t knocked out any of his last nine opponents since April 2007. His bruising style often leads to ugly fights, such as his technical-decision victory over Alexander when an accidental head-butt — another common theme in Bradley’s fights — opened a cut over Alexander’s eye.
Bradley’s decision to pass on a fight with Khan also surprised many boxing observers, because Bradley has never been a fighter who backed down from a challenge. He traveled to England to win his first title, beating Junior Witter in a split decision in Nottingham in May 2008, and he beat Kendall Holt for the WBO belt in Montreal 11 months later.
Bradley said he stayed in excellent shape while on hiatus with multiple workouts every week.
“I just can’t wait to get to work,” Bradley said. “I feel like I’ve got a fresh start.”