Tim Bradley understands that he’s in a privileged position as his June 9 challenge to Manny Pacquiao looms less than two months away.
The opportunity to fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on HBO pay-per-view against the most popular fighter in the world has already changed his life, turning the unbeaten junior welterweight titleholder from an under-appreciated talent to a topic of conversation for sports fans around the world.
Yet, there will be no isolation on a snow-covered mountain or trip to some far-off high profile gym to prepare for the task ahead. Instead, Bradley is doing things the same way he’s always done them as he prepares to open official training camp this week in his hometown of Palm Springs, Calif.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said Bradley (28-0, 12 knockouts), who twice unified the WBC and WBO 140-pound titles against Kendall Holt in 2009 and Devon Alexander last January.
“My family’s here, I’m getting a lot of push from the public around here, they’re honking the horns and shouting ‘Get ’em Tim, get ’em’ and motivating me. To me, if you have to change up your routine it’s because you have distractions. I don’t like partying; nobody wants to hang out with me. I’m a family guy, I’m married, I’ve got kids, I’m not really hanging out with you. I’m not going out to the bar with you, or going to hang out at a disco.
“I’d rather go to a theme park with the kids.”
Bradley’s opponent, Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs), is also scheduled to begin official camp this week in the high-elevation mountains of Baguio, Philippines. The Filipino congressman from General Santos City had been training on his own in the Southern Philippines before joining head trainer Freddie Roach and conditioning coach Alex Ariza earlier this week.
Bradley, 28, says that he has already been training for a month and a half, hitting the gym every other day for strength training and running five days a week. He’s ahead of schedule, he says, and the only issue so far has been making sure that he doesn’t overdo it in the gym.
“They always try to pull me back from training so much,” said Bradley of his team, which is led by head trainer Joel Diaz. “This fight has [brought] a different type of intensity and atmosphere in the gym. I think that my team and I, we’re very hungry to prove that we’re the best in the world. To fight a guy like Manny Pacquiao, you have to be at your very best and I think that’s what we’re working towards.
“There is a little pressure on me and my training here as far as how much work load I can endure and not overtrain, but I really don’t think about that because as long as I’m eating right and I’m resting 8-10 hours a night and just taking care of my body, I’m not really worried about overtraining.”
When it comes to eating right during training camp for Bradley, green means go. For the past four years, Bradley has practiced a vegetarian diet while preparing for matches – not because he feels meat is murder – but because of the pressure it alleviates in trying to make 140 pounds.
“I don’t eat anything that has eyes or has a Mom pretty much,” said Bradley, who has altered his diet to exclude meat products for every training camp since his May 2008 victory over WBC 140-pound titleholder Junior Witter.
“I pretty much just eat lots of green leafy vegetables, grains, some starches, sweet potatoes. I snack on like almonds, seeds and nuts like that. I’ll dig in a lot of wheat grass, Spirulina, a lot of different great things that give you energy.
“I was winning a lot of my fights but I didn’t have too much energy going into the fights because I was so lethargic going into the weighins trying to make 140 pounds being dehydrated since I was doing it completely wrong.”
This bout will be held at the 147 pound weight limit, where Pacquiao holds the WBO portion of the welterweight crown. It will be Bradley’s second time competing in a notable fight at 147 pounds, the first since his 2010 bout with Luis Carlos Abregu.
Bradley says that the suggestion to give up meat – at least while preparing for bouts – came from his doctor, who is a practicing vegetarian. The logic of his doctor’s suggestion clicked immediately.
“One of the things he explained to me was that a lot of people are saying that our genetic makeup was like monkeys or chimps or gorillas,” said Bradley. “Gorillas, they don’t eat any meat, they’re vegetarians too and eat pretty much on fruits or nuts, they don’t eat any meat. They’re big and they’re strong. If they’re strong and they say our genetic makeup is pretty much similar, if it worked for them then it’ll work for me.”
Despite growing whispers that Pacquiao at 33 is on the decline (notably in Ron Borges’ feature for the March issue of THE RING) following his flat performance in his most recent clash with Juan Manuel Marquez in November, Bradley isn’t approaching this challenge expecting anything less than a peak form of “The Pacman.”
“I just think that he had a lot of distractions with a lot of the things that were going on,” said Bradley, referencing rumors that Pacquiao was having marital issues during the build-up to his most recent fight. “I think that now he’s got back into his religion, I think that he’s definitely channeling himself, definitely getting a lot more focused. Now he’s gotten rid of the things he was doing that went against the things he believed in. Now I think he’s going to come back as the full-fledged Manny Pacquiao that everyone was expecting to dominate me and try to knock me out and get me out of there.”
That’s not to say that he’s expecting to get run out of the MGM Grand, however.
“I’ve been in the ring with thousands of people and I’ve never been completely dominated,’ said Bradley. “I don’t care what level you are, if you’re the best in the world, I’ve never been dominated period. I don’t think this guy is invincible, I just think it’s a matter of time. Manny Pacquiao is one of the best fighters in the world next to Floyd Mayweather, but I’m here to prove that I’m one of the best, if not the best. My main focus is just go out there and just win, just like every fight. It’s just another fight to me, it just so happens that it’s on a huge magnitude as far as stardom.
“This is what I’ve been waiting on for the last 18 years of my life. A chance like this only comes around once in a lifetime, sometimes twice but I really don’t want to rely on a second chance. I want to get it the first time out. I’m preparing myself mentally, spiritually, emotionally I’m ready for this. I’ve felt that I belonged at this level for a very long time.
“I’m out there to show the world, the boxing fans, ‘This kid can fight, this kid can go with anybody in the world. This kid beat the best fighter in the world, Manny Pacquiao; I can’t wait to see this kid again.’ That’s the kind of impression that I want to leave on June 9.”
Photos / Chris Farina-Top Rank
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News and the Filipino Reporter newspaper in New York City. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.