BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – If there’s a story line in Manny Pacquiao’s next fight that doesn’t involve Floyd Mayweather, it’s that the Filipino icon is finally taking on an opponent the boxing media deems “dangerous.”
Pacquiao had his hands full with arch rival Juan Manuel Marquez last November, but few gave the Mexican veteran a chance to win before the fight.
It’s a different story with Timothy Bradley, who Pacquiao faces on June 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The WBO 140-pound beltholder is undefeated, athletically gifted, skilled, tenacious, and in his prime, prompting many boxing writers to think Bradley can do more than just compete with the WBO welterweight beltholder. Some believe the 28-year-old Palm Springs native can beat Pacquiao.
And with Pacquiao’s controversial majority decision over Marquez still fresh in everyone’s mind, more than a few of those media members might even have the confidence to pick Bradley on record.
Keep in mind that the last time a decent number of boxing scribes picked against Pacquiao was when the then-lightweight beltholder fought Oscar De La Hoya in a welterweight bout in December of 2008.
Pacquiao, who demolished the faded star in eight rounds, has been an overwhelming favorite in every fight since, which is why Bradley (28-0, 12 knockouts) appreciates the media backing almost as much as he welcomes the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to challenge a boxing legend.
“It’s awesome,” Bradley said after the kick-off media conference to his multi-city press tour held at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Tuesday. “Those writers picking me have followed my career. They know what I am capable of. It feels really good to have people believe in you.”
That hasn’t always been the case for Bradley, who was developed on mostly off-TV Southern California club shows. He was given no chance to win his first title shot, which came against Junior Witter in the WBC 140-pound beltholder’s native Britain in 2008.
Bradley upset Witter by split decision and has gradually made believers among the media and fight fans by beating worthy challengers, including current WBA/IBF 140-pound titleholder Lamont Peterson, and winning title-unification bouts against Kendall Holt in 2009 and Devon Alexander last January. He’s definitely earned his No. 1-junior welterweight ranking and No. 9 pound-for-pound status in THE RING’s ratings.
However, none of his accomplishments compare to fighting Pacquiao and the mainstream media attention that will accompany the HBO Pay Per View event.
“This is life changing,” Bradley said. “I’ve never been a part of a media tour like this, but I feel like it’s where I belong. This is where I want to be.
“This is the exposure I need to make me a household name.”
Bradley said being known outside of the boxing world is something he always wanted, but he knew the opportunity would come only after he proved himself inside the sport.
“It was always a goal to become a name in boxing, because the name fighters are the only ones who are financially successful, but the ultimate goal was to get respect,” he said. “I wanted to get to a point when I wouldn’t be overlooked.”
Bradley isn’t being overlooked in the biggest fight of his life, but he’s still the betting underdog.
There are reasons. Apart from Marquez, Pacquiao has dominated, brutalized of bullied every world-class fighter he’s faced over the past six years. The two primary tools in the frenetic southpaw’s reign of terror are speed and power.
Bradley might be able to compete with Pacquiao in the speed and quickness department, but not in punching power. That’s the edge odds makers have to give Pacquiao.
Bradley concedes that Pacquiao may hit harder, but he believes that he’s the physically stronger fighter.
“I’m the bigger man,” said Bradley, who fought in the 152-pound division as an amateur when Pacquiao was still fighting at 122 pounds and featherweight. “People should know that junior welterweight is not my natural division. I have to dehydrate myself to make 140 pounds, so I’m going to be much sharper, faster and stronger having those extra seven pounds of water in me.
“I’m 165 pound right now, and I’m not fat. He might be an inch taller than me, but I am bigger and stronger than he is.”
There was a lot of intensity in Bradley’s voice when he said that. Beneath Bradley’s nice-guy demeanor – and there were plenty of smiles and chuckles between he and Pacquiao during Tuesday’s press conference – is a fierce competitor.
“I’ve always been competitive, it’s in my nature,” Bradley said. “I was like this before boxing, since I was a little kid. If I raced my friends down the block, I had to be the fastest. If there was a spitting contest I had to spit the farthest.
“In sixth grade a friend of mine who was boxing talked me in to coming to his gym and I’ve applied myself and strived to get better ever since. I really took to boxing. The toughest thing was convincing my dad to let me do it, which is funny because I was getting into fights all the time when I was a kid. I was actually kicked out of two schools for fighting.
“I’m talking about when I was in second grade. It’s hard to believe now, because I have a 7-year-old daughter in second grade, but I had a crazy, thug mentality.”
There’s no more thuggish behavior from Bradley, who has grown up to be the definition of a dedicated pro athlete, model citizen and devoted father. His daughter, Alaysia, would add “future star” to that list.
“She told me to kick Manny’s butt,” Bradley said. “She says she’ll do it if I don’t. My son (Robert), who is 12, is more realistic. When the fight was made he said ‘Hey, this is your big chance. Don’t choke.’”