LOS ANGELES – Don’t believe for a minute that Tim Bradley is an unpopular fighter.
While it’s true Bradley had to endure a lot of negative criticism in the immediate aftermath of his highly controversial split-decision victory over Manny Pacquiao last June, it’s also true that the undefeated two-division titleholder gained a lot of supporters during the media and promotional build-up to the HBO Pay Per View event.
Bradley says the significant bump-up in popularity he gained last year will be evident by the crowd that supports him at his first fight of 2013, an HBO-televised showdown against Ruslan Provodnikov this Saturday at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
“People know who I am, I do have a name,” the 29-year-old Palm Springs, Calif. native told RingTV.com prior to the final press conference for the Provodnikov fight on Wednesday at L.A. LIVE’s Conga Room.
“There are going to be a lot of California natives there. I do a lot of community work in the Coachella Valley area and those fans will be there. It’s important to me to show the world that I do have fans.
“Boxing people think I don’t have fans and that Filipinos hate me. I take more pictures with Filipinos than Americans or any other race.”
Bradley says people of all backgrounds – and not just boxing fans – approach him all the time since the Pacquiao fight.
“I can’t go anywhere without being recognized,” said Bradley (29-0, 12 knockouts). “It’s difficult sometimes. It can be overwhelming, but I’m appreciative of it. I’ve met some celebrities and I hate the ones who can’t give fans the time of day, so I try to take as many pictures and sign as many autographs as I can whenever I’m asked.
Bradley will have to get used to accommodating people who recognize him if his plans for this year pan out. He says he wants to fight at least three times in 2013, an ambitious schedule for an “elite” fighter.
Most of the boxers who are recognized as the best in the sport by their inclusion on the mythical pound-for-pound rankings – such as Floyd Mayweather, Andre Ward, Sergio Martinez and the Klitschko brothers – rarely fight more than twice a year.
Bradley, who is on most pound-for-pound lists, has averaged less than two bouts a year since 2010.
The only exception to this rule is Bradley’s managerial and promotional stablemate Nonito Donaire, who fought four times last year (all on HBO), a feat that helped the 122-pound champ win the Boxing Writers Assoc. of America’s Fighter of the Year award.
That kind of activity is rare for an HBO-level fighter, but obviously not impossible.
“It’s very unusual for someone of Nonito’s or Tim’s stature to fight that often in one year, especially all on HBO, but there’s no reason why it can’t be done if the fighter wants it,” said Cameron Dunkin, who manages both Donaire and Bradley.
“I’d like Tim to fight three times this year, which in previous years would be a very difficult thing because Tim fights on (HBO) Championship Boxing. Donaire fought four times in 2012, but he also took a few Boxing After Dark dates (which offers less money).
“Tim wants to fight on Championship Boxing, and with (Amir) Khan and Canelo (Saul Alvarez) fighting on Showtime these days, it opens up dates for him. So we’re going to try to do it.”
Bradley says he is committed to the goal, as is his promoter, Top Rank.
“I miss being in the ring,” he said. “We’re going to try to fight as many times as we can. I’d love to fight four times. I know I’ll get more fans with more exposure. And more exposure comes from more fights.
“We’ve all come to that understanding. I’m going to let Top Rank promote and I’m going to be the fighter and just go out and win fights.”
Bradley says he understands that greater activity means he can’t be too choosy as to who he fights. He said he would love to face the other titleholders of the 147-pound division, primarily Mayweather, but he knows that promotional and schedule conflicts make those bouts extremely unlikely.
So when asked if he would be willing to face a relatively unknown fighter, such as the winner of Saturday’s HBO-televised co-feature between unbeaten prospects Jessie Vargas and Wale Omotoso, Bradley said bring ‘em on.
“I don’t care who it is as long as the fight is on HBO and I’m being paid that dough, he said.
Of course, before Bradley can really think about his next fight of 2013, he’s got to defend the WBO title he won from Pacquiao against Provodnikov (22-1, 15 KOs), a heavy handed Russian slugger who has won five consecutive bouts (four by stoppage) since dropping a close decision to Mauricio Herrera in January 2011.
Despite being out of the ring since last June, Bradley says he’s ready for the brute strong 29-year-old challenger.
“I’m excited about this fight,” he said. “Provodnikov is a good, determined fighter. I know he’s very confident but my job is to bring that confidence down and show him that he cannot beat me.”
Bradley says he’s 100 percent healed from the ankle injuries he suffered during the Pacquiao fight and he knows that he’s at his athletic peak from the sparring sessions of his most recent camp.
“I know I’m 100 percent when I’m doing what I want to do in sparring,” said Bradley, who worked with Herrera, a 140-pound fringe contender, and lightweight prospect Omar Figueroa among others. “Each week I got better – stronger, faster, lighter, quicker. My reaction time is there. I can see shots coming.”
Apart from Vargas (21-0, 9 KOs) and Omotoso (23-0, 19 KOs), who are scheduled to go 10 rounds in the HBO opener, Top Rank has four other notable unbeaten prospects on Saturday’s card.
Oscar Valdez (3-0, 2 KOs), a 2012 Mexican Olympian, is in a junior featherweight six rounder against Jose Morales (6-4, 1 KO).
Gabino Saenz (8-0-1, 7 KOs), a junior featherweight from Indio, Calif., takes on Cesar Valenzuela (4-1-1, 2 KOs), of Phoenix, in a scheduled six rounder.
Heavyweight prospect Andy Ruiz (17-0, 11 KOs), a 23-year-old big man from Mexicali, Mexico, faces Missouri jounreyman Matthew Greer (15-9, 13 KOs) in an eight-round bout.
And highly touted junior featherweight standout Jessie Magdaleno (13-0, 9 KOs), of Las Vegas, will fight experienced Carlos Fulgencio (18-9-1, 12 KOs), of the Dominican Republic, in a scheduled eight rounder.
Photos / Chris Farina-Top Rank