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LAS VEGAS -- The last time Timothy Bradley Jr. fought in Las Vegas, he was the recipient of one of the most controversial decisions in boxing history, a split decision against Manny Pacquiao in June 2012 in a fight almost nobody thought he deserved to win.
But on Saturday night, Bradley deserved every point the judges gave him as he won a split decision against Juan Manuel Marquez to retain his welterweight world title for the second time before 13,011 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
"That win was my ticket to the Boxing Hall of Fame," Bradley said. "I beat a great champion. It feels amazing. I feel great. I knew that this was my moment and I told everyone that would listen."
Bradley has been obsessed since the Pacquiao fight with earning the respect from fans and media he was denied afterward. It led Bradley to change his style and fight in an unnatural brawl in March against Ruslan Provodnikov, who nearly knocked him out multiple times, dropped him in the 12th round and left him with a concussion, from which he was feeling the effects for at least two months after the fight.
But against Marquez, the all-time great Mexican, Bradley went back to his previous boxing style, and it paid dividends.
"Tim followed the game plan perfectly," said Joel Diaz, Bradley's trainer. "I told you no one can beat Tim if he boxes the way he should, and he didn't have a mark on his face. Marquez never touched him. No one can outbox Tim Bradley. I told him, 'Don't get reckless.'"
Bradley set the pace and showed Marquez enough movement to cause him problems. By the second half of the fight, he appeared to be in a groove.
|Timothy Bradley Jr. outboxed Juan Manuel Marquez on Saturday, landing his jabs, avoiding return fire and racking up rounds to win a split decision.|
"I did everything I trained to do," said Bradley, who appeared to have recovered from the beating he took against Provodnikov. "I jabbed over and over. He couldn't touch me. I gave him a boxing lesson. I always fight for the fans, but I get very little appreciation for it."
Two of the judges, however, appreciated it. Robert Hoyle (115-113) and Patricia Morse Jarman (116-112) had it for Bradley, while Glenn Feldman had it 115-113 for Marquez. ESPN.com also had it for Bradley, 115-113.
Marquez, who has lost multiple controversial decisions, including twice to Pacquiao (he also drew with him), once again felt he was ripped off.
"We came to win and we did, but the judges saw something else," said Marquez, who left the ring without doing a television interview but agreed to one in his dressing room. "We won. I'm very happy with the fight we put out."
Marquez was bidding to become the first Mexican fighter to win a world title in five weights classes and to join an elite group of fighters to win world titles in that many divisions -- a fraternity that includes only Manny Pacquiao (eight divisions), Oscar De La Hoya (six), Sugar Ray Leonard (five), Thomas Hearns (five) and Floyd Mayweather Jr. (five).
Marquez, 40, who earned a minimum guarantee of $6 million, came close, but he couldn't get the job done the way he did so dramatically in December, when he knocked out Pacquiao with one shot at the end of the sixth round.
"We came to do our job and get a win. You don't necessarily have to win by knockout," Marquez said. "We did our job. You can't win all fights by knockout. We did what was necessary to win."
In the second round, Marquez's forehead was marked and Bradley landed some crisp right hands, including one during a toe-to-toe flurry at the end of the round that snapped Marquez's head back while he was against the ropes.
Bradley's best weapon was his right hand, which he landed often, touching Marquez with it and then moving away. Marquez landed occasional left hooks, but he didn't land anything to give Bradley second thoughts about coming to him as they settled into a tactical fight that had enough action to keep the crowd into it.
By the eighth round, Marquez's left eye was beginning to swell. The largely pro-Marquez crowd was cheering for him, but he was eating more shots than Bradley.
In the 10th round, Bradley (31-0, 12 KOs), 30, of Palm Springs, Calif., landed a clean right that rocked Marquez (55-7-1, 40 KOs). The 12th began with the crowd chanting "Marquez! Marquez!" and the challenger seemed to be lifted by it. He seemed to be going for a knockout, but he walked into a booming left hook moments before the end of the round that nearly knocked him down. It was all Marquez could do to steady himself without touching a glove to the canvas.
|Juan Manuel Marquez tried to make a final charge in the 12th round, but Timothy Bradley Jr. knocked him off-balance -- and almost to the mat.|
For the fight, Bradley landed 168 of 562 punches (30 percent), according to CompuBox statistics, while Marquez was credited with landing 153 of 455 punches (34 percent).
"He made adjustments," Bradley said. "He's a veteran, I expected that. I had to stay solid on my defense and stay hungry."
Marquez was bitterly disappointed and said he wasn't sure if he would continue to fight, although he has said that after other close losses.
"With these six robberies I have, I just don't know what my future holds at the moment," he said.
Bradley, however, seems to have put the Pacquiao debacle behind him by beating the man who drilled Pacquiao.
"I'm going to sit down and talk with my team and we're going to set up a plan," said Bradley, who earned $4.1 million. "I want to fight nothing but the best. I have to be considered top three in the world now.
"There is Floyd Mayweather, there is Andre Ward and there is Tim Bradley."