Timothy Bradley Jr. says his time is now
March, 1, 2012
By Brian Campbell | ESPN.com
Unbeaten junior welterweight champion Timothy Bradley Jr. has an answer for everything.
Tell him he lacks power, and he'll tell you to ask the opponents he has been in the ring with whether they think he punches hard.
Bring up that he has a rep as a dirty fighter who leads with his head, he'll tell you it's merely the result of his style -- no different, he says, than that of others before him, like Evander Holyfield.
And if you think that casual fans -- and maybe a few educated ones, too -- don't know, or worse, couldn't care enough to watch his fights, well, he's got an answer for that, too.
"I think the fans and the general public simply haven't seen me fight," Bradley said.
So what does a guy with all the answers do to fix that?
For Bradley, it meant facing a breach-of-contract lawsuit from his former co-promoters in order to sign with Top Rank. It also meant enduring almost a year of inactivity and pubic mockery after turning down a career-high payday against Amir Khan in hopes of landing a fight with boxing cash cow Manny Pacquiao.
With Pacquiao's advisers having narrowed down the list of candidates for his next fight to a group that appeared either more deserving or more enticing at the box office, Bradley's chances appeared slim.
But just as the Palm Springs, Calif., native has overcome seemingly every obstacle placed in front of him professionally, Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs) is the lone name left standing. He'll move up in weight to challenge Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) on June 9 in Las Vegas on pay-per-view.
"It was definitely an uphill battle taking all of the criticism from the fans and media in 2011," Bradley said. "Everyone was laughing at me and saying I'm scared of Amir Khan. But I felt that after winning three world championships, I still wasn't really known. Now I'm with the best promotional company in the world and I'm sitting pretty, ready to fight the best fighter in the world. So who is laughing now?"
With an upcoming starring role in HBO's documentary series "24/7" to build up the fight, Bradley will get his opportunity for crossover appeal to the casual fan. It's in line with something that he agrees the sport glaringly lacks: a wholesome American PPV star.
So what's the solution? Don't think he's out of answers yet.
"I'm that next big face in boxing, I truly believe it," Bradley said. "I definitely want to bring a good image and a good vibe back to boxing. My personality is very friendly and I'm very kind to the fans. Just the way that I carry myself, I try to be a good role model for the kids and boxing in general. I think the fans will also gravitate towards my willingness to fight the best out there."
Bradley is good-looking, intelligent and hard-working, with a skill set predicated on the overachieving, all-American values of discipline and perseverance. He is often compared to Holyfield, mostly for their shared penchant for head-butting. It's a shame that it usually ends there, when you consider that both fighters have consistently overcome perceived slights in size and power with heart and unparalleled conditioning.
Still think he's overrated or undeserving of such a marquee fight? Go ahead and criticize. It's the fuel that stokes Bradley's desire.
"When people talk bad about me, I love it," Bradley said. "I eat it up. Keep talking bad about me! You hear that everyone? I love it. You say whatever you want to say about me, because at the end of the day, it's motivation. The more confident you get, the more wins you get and the harder you work in the gym. Soon you find yourself winning fights that a lot of people count you out of."
But Bradley will have a tough time finding many who are willing to give him more than a puncher's chance against Pacquiao.
"Manny Pacquiao has had a lot of wars, and I think his outside life might catch up with him a little bit," Bradley said. "His mind is in a thousand different places at once, and he is going to have his hands full in the ring because they won't know what to expect from me. There is no way Manny Pacquiao works harder than me. There is no way.
"I don't believe I can be beaten. This is my moment. This is what I believe."
How Bradley handles the moment will dictate the level of crossover stardom that comes his way. But for the man who seemingly has all the answers, just one question remains come June 9: Can he answer the final bell with his hands held high?
Don't count him out just yet.