Bradley risked health to win fans, get Marquez

timothy bradley remembers the first and final rounds of his last
bout. the rest has vanished into a foggy haze.
the welterweight champion candidly acknowledges his brain took a
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beating in his victory over ruslan provodnikov last march.
determined to prove his ring bravery to a doubting public, bradley
(30-0, 12 kos) consciously abandoned years of technical discipline
and waded into a fistfight with the siberian brawler.
”i wanted to prove to people that i was the true champion,”
bradley said this week. ”i was going to prove it to everybody just
by trying to knock out ruslan. i was trying to show a different
side of me.”
he paid for it with a swollen skull, ugly injuries and two
months of pain and slurred speech. yet it’s a transaction he would
make again.
”i still want the fans to be happy,” bradley said. ”i’m a
four-time world champion, and i’m trying to build a fan base.
that’s tough. i’m trying to make the real big money. i think about
all of this. … i almost died in that fight, but i loved the
attention after it.”
that visceral display in an outdoor ring in carson, calif., set
him up for a lucrative pay-per-view fight against vaunted mexican
champion juan manuel marquez in las vegas on saturday night.
bradley is determined to be smarter against marquez, but he also
remembers how he got to the thomas and mack center.
”i’m not stupid,” he said. ”i know a lot of people are
probably going to watch this fight because of that fight.”
bradley’s strategy stemmed from his fury and confusion after his
victory over manny pacquiao in his previous fight.
the decision was among the most criticized in recent boxing
history, and bradley took it all very personally. the online
comments on twitter and facebook would start at 5 a.m. and wouldn’t
stop until about 3:30 a.m. the next day, leaving bradley baffled by
the trolls’ tenacity.
”man, they wake up thinking about me,” he said. ”i was in a
bad place. a lot of people lost a lot of respect for me, especially
the fans, after the pacquiao fight. a lot of people were like,
`bradley is a fake champion. he doesn’t deserve the belt.”’
nine months of simmering anger culminated in a decision he
announced to his wife, monica, the night before his fight against
”i was like, `i’m going to beat him down. i’m going through
him,”’ bradley said. ”and my wife was scared. she said, `don’t do
it, don’t do it.’ she cried that night, because she knew what i was
going to do. when it happened after the first round, in the second
round, she got up and left, because she knew my plans. she knew it
wasn’t going to get any better.”
bradley remembers getting knocked down by provodnikov in the
first round, and he recalls the brutal 12th round. he has watched
the other 10 rounds on video.
”i was just blown away,” bradley said. ”i was like, `wow, why
did i fight like that?’ i just couldn’t believe that i was able to
take that many big shots like that, and i couldn’t believe i was
still standing after the fight. it just showed me what type of
fighter i am, the type of heart i have, the type of determination i
the fighters traded huge shots throughout the night, including a
dynamic sixth round. bradley also returned to his usual sharp
boxing for long stretches with prodding from his infuriated
trainer, joel diaz, who threatened to stop the fight if bradley
didn’t stop taking crazy risks.
bradley is imprecise about the nature of his injuries, just
saying everything ”felt weird for a while.” at monica’s
insistence, he consulted with brain doctors in new york and long
beach, embarking on a program of therapeutic exercises to bring his
brain back to proper function.
doctors couldn’t decide whether bradley had an actual
concussion, as he suspected from the first round on. the visible
injuries were more than enough to frighten his family.
”my son couldn’t stand to look at me,” bradley said. ”he
couldn’t believe the way i fought. he said, `you’re better than
that, tim. you’re better than that.”’
bradley knew his son was correct score prediction – and yet it worked.
he had changed the perception of the wide majority of boxing
fans who love all-action fights, even if they inevitably shorten
their fighters’ career. a headfirst, technical fighter with little
knockout power had turned himself into an action hero.
”hbo brought me in, and they treated me differently,” bradley
said. ”my promoters treated me differently. people around town
showed a lot of respect. `man, what type of heart you have. i can’t
believe you could withstand such big shots like that.’ … the
feedback made it all worth it. i felt like it brought some more
light to my career, because after the pacquiao fight, the lights
got real dim.”