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It's unfortunate that Timothy Bradley Jr. is likely better known for last year's ugly and overhyped mess of a fight with Devon Alexander and his habitual in-ring head clashes than for his sublime speed, conditioning and pound-for-pound chops. Then again, Bradley will get his chance to recast himself when he challenges Manny Pacquiao for a welterweight title June 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (HBO pay-per-view, 9 p.m. ET).
With his quickness, grit and solid experience at a relatively tender age (28), Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs) is a legitimate threat to Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) -- certainly more dangerous than he has been given credit for by those who won't be satisfied by anything less than a Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight. Even if he lacks one-punch finishing power, Bradley appears to have the skills and stamina to stage 12 competitive rounds with Pacquiao -- a claim only a handful elite fighters can reasonably make.
ESPN.com enlisted HBO to engage Bradley in a conversation to learn more about the fighter in the lead-up to the Pacquiao bout. As part of an ongoing feature ahead of the fight, we will provide periodic updates with Bradley's responses.
On whether he knew a date with Pacquiao was imminent and how it feels to land the fight after taking heavy criticism for turning down a fight with Amir Khan:
In boxing, criticism is part of the game. You hear it before, during and after every fight. I have learned to let it roll off me like water off a duck's back. Experience told me that the timing for the Amir Khan fight was wrong. I had already fought and won two world title unification fights against Kendall Holt and Devon Alexander. Both were big victories, but because of the timing of when they took place, I didn't realize the full financial potential that I feel I should have.
|Who knew when Timothy Bradley Jr., right, was taking heat for turning down Amir Khan that he would instead land a Manny Pacquiao blockbuster?|
When the Amir Khan world title unification fight was presented, I was determined not to be pushed into it. Business as usual was no longer acceptable, and certain changes had to be made. I went over all the details with my team, debated the merits and decided it was not the best deal. I heard the criticism. I read the criticism. But deep down, I knew, based on what was being offered to me, it was not the right deal. It was a business decision. And if it's one thing I have learned as a professional boxer, it's this: Sometimes the deal you don't make is the best deal you do make.
I am thrilled beyond compare that I am challenging Manny Pacquiao. I was at the right place at the right time. But I'm also deserving of this fight. I have been a world champion since 2008. I have unified the titles twice. I'm undefeated. I'm the best in my division. I feel I made the right decision not only for my career but for my life -- for my family. Looking back at it, I can say that it was definitely worth enduring all the negativity directed toward me. I am now in a place where I will be able to accomplish another one of my goals in life and that is to fight the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. This is a huge challenge for me personally and professionally.
It feels great to get the fight with Manny Pacquiao. It's going to feel even better when I beat him. You can take that to the bank.
On what he likes to do when he's not in training, whether he plays or watches other sports and if he has any role models:
Even though I'm a world champion fighter, I enjoy offseasons like other professional athletes and I like to make the most of my free time. Like any other sports fan, I enjoy watching football and basketball on television as well as spending time with friends and family.
I'm a homebody, even during training camp, because I train at a local gym and stay at home. My wife and kids keep me grounded, and I like to stay involved in their day-to-day lives even when training camp is in full gear. When I'm not training, I serve as president of the Junior All-American Football and Cheer program and help coach any of the teams my son plays on. I have a great appreciation for the head coaches and how they teach and motivate. I'm honored to assist them. It's really been a lot of fun watching my son and his friends develop as players and teammates over the years. It's been a very rewarding experience.
I also attend as many school functions for my kids as possible. Back-to-school nights, PTO -- you name it, my wife and I are there. I'm amazed at what they are teaching our kids and how early these subjects are being taught to them. So much of it is fascinating. It's always fun going to Career Day at my kids' schools. With one in elementary and the other in middle school, you can imagine the differences in questions I am asked.
My favorite time of day is the morning when my daughter and I walk to school together. It's a great time to just chat about anything that's on her mind. It's our time, and I really treasure it.
On his best and worst memories as a fighter and which of his wins -- amateur or professional -- were the most satisfying:
I am blessed to have been in many memorable fights that have contributed to great memories as a professional fighter. I get asked a lot which fight stands out the most, and I would have to say it's my victory over Junior Witter. It was my first world championship fight. I'll never forget it.
|Timothy Bradley Jr. captured his junior welterweight title with a win over Junior Witter in 2008. "I'll never forget it," Bradley said.|
Witter was the champion and I was the challenger. I had to travel to his backyard in England to fight him in front of his hometown fans. I knew I had to train hard in camp and execute perfectly against him. No one was going to do me any favors over there. Every point I won, I earned.
There is something very special when you defeat an opponent on his home turf. But in this case, I was facing a world champion on foreign soil. I didn't think about it much while I was training, but when I landed, it really struck me. I was fighting for me and I was fighting for the U S of A. It may sound corny, but I really felt I was representing my country throughout fight week. And the fans in England were great. They all came in as fans of Witter, but they left as fans of boxing. Everyone was so nice.
Winning that first world title from Witter was not just a turning point for my career but for my life, too.
My worst memory in boxing was when my amateur trainer, O.J. Kutcher, passed away. O.J. was the one person who always believed I had it in me to become world champion. When O.J. suffered a stroke, I was with him through his last days. It was very sad. Losing O.J. was like losing my right arm, and to this day I think of him or something he taught me on a daily basis.
I held on to a pair of hand wraps and gauze O.J. had given me when I was a child, saving them for something special. I wore them the night I fought Witter. I just knew O.J. would have wanted to be there that night, and as I wrapped my hands, I really felt he was with me, even when I was in the ring. Though O.J.'s passing is my worst memory as a fighter, you can count my experience with O.J. as a memory every bit as sweet as winning the title from Witter.