LAS VEGAS – Tim Bradley may not upset Manny Pacquiao Saturday night at the MGM Garden Arena but if he does he won’t consider it a surprise.
Bradley may be the most relaxed 4-1 underdog in boxing history, periodically appearing in the media center on the grounds of the MGM Grand this week to voluntarily be interviewed on various sports talk radio outlets or shoot the breeze with a tent full of boxing writers.
He reminded some of George Foreman during his comeback, a guy who became more user family than an iPhone during his boxing reincarnation. Long-time Top Rank matchmaker Brad Goodman told associates in boxing that Bradley reminded him of how a supremely confident Pacquiao himself had acted in the final days before he retired Oscar De La Hoya with a lopsided beating that ended with De La Hoya slumped on his stool as the fight was stopped after eight rounds.
Bradley has spoken with a clear self-assurance for months now, giving Pacquiao credit for his many accomplishments and willingly conceding that while this is by far the biggest fight of his career “it’s not in the top 10 for Manny.’’ Yet none of that for a minute should be interpreted as Bradley having come to Las Vegas for a guaranteed $5 million payday alone. He has come here for a higher purpose.
“Everyone is human,’’ Bradley said after a recent break in his training. “I don’t see him as a god. I don’t feel threatened by his ability.
“Every fighter is dangerous but every fighter is human, too. If you cut him, he’ll bleed. If you hit him right, he’ll go down. I know what the fight will come down to. It will come down to what it always comes down to. It comes down to his will vs. my will and his skill vs. my skill.
‘On paper some people may think this fight is a joke. In reality it’s a real fight. I know I’m no 6-1, 10-1 (really 4-1) underdog. I’m not just happy to be there. I’m not in awe of nobody. I have a lot of confidence…and I’ll back it up.
“A lot of guys get in with Pacquiao and freeze. (Joshua) Clottey is a much better fighter than he was the night he fought Pacquiao. He showed him too much respect. Same with (Shane) Mosley. They needed to fight the dude.
“We’ll touch gloves but after that I’ll fight him. The respect is there, as it should be, but on June 9 he’ll have to respect me too. I’m not easily broken.’’
Bradley long ago proved that, back in the days when he was growing up on the wrong side of Palm Springs. Most people don’t even know there is a wrong side of Palm Springs but the north side is a broken down, drug-ridden neighborhood never visited by tourists and seldom visited by good fortune.
It is a place where dreams are broken, if they ever even existed, yet Bradley emerged from that hard place to become a two-time unified junior welterweight champion with a growing family, successful career and a belief in himself that not even Pacquiao’s impressive resume has been able to shake.
“Opportunity only comes once,’’ Bradley said. “This is my shot but it’s just one of my dreams. I set goals and when I accomplish them I set a new goal. I wanted to be a champion. I am. Then I wanted to be Top 10 pound-for-pound. I’m No. 9. Now my goal is to be No. 1 pound for pound. This is my shot at that. After this I want to become a legendary fighter.
“I’m happy at the way things worked out. I’m happy at the moves we made that led us to getting a shot at the No. 1 guy. I was in with a lot of top guys at 140 who were supposed to beat me and I beat them all. So here we go again.
“Manny’s opposition has been strong guys but I can do things in there those other fighters can’t do. Styles make fights and he struggled with (Juan Manuel) Marquez three times. Marquez is a counter puncher. So am I but I’m a more aggressive guy. I have my own style. I can pretty much do it all in the ring. I can pressure or I can counter. You can’t prepare for me one way.’’
Pacquiao has been preparing for Bradley in several ways, including nightly Bible study sessions he says grew out of a need to change what had become a life spinning out of control.
Although publicly portrayed for years as a saintly figure, it turns out he was a womanizing, gambling, whiskey drinking purveyor of cockfighting and late-night excursions to unsavory places until sometime last October. Threatened with the possible loss of his marriage to his long-suffering wife Jinkee, Pacquiao claims to have quit cold turkey his many vices, vices that included a gambling habit which had led him to ask promoter Bob Arum for repeated advances on his purses to pay what Arum estimated was between a million and two million a year in gambling losses over the past few years.
Bradley views this conversion with a jaundiced eye. Although he has not publicly called Pacquiao a fraud, he seems to believe that a life of abuse, even if suddenly reversed, eventually demands a steep and painful toll be paid. In his eyes at least, Saturday night he will be the toll collector.
“I knew sooner or later all the distractions would catch up with him,’’ Bradley said of Pacquiao’s chaotic public and private lives. “He’s here. He’s there. He’s fornicating. Now he’s got his religion in place? I want to finish the job.’’
The job he has in mind is finishing off Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KO), a process Bradley and others believe Juan Manuel Marquez began last November when he appeared to give Pacquiao a thorough beating only to lose his second hotly disputed decision to him. Whether that proves to be how things play out remains to be seen but in Tim Bradley’s mind the future is now and it has already been written.
It is only waiting for him to pound it out on Manny Pacquiao’s face.
“This fight will change my life,’’ he said. “I prepare myself for me. I don’t prepare for what I think he’s doing. I don’t care if he climbed Mt. Everest. I don’t care if he’s walking on water.
“This is about me. It’s not a battle with Pacquiao. It’s a battle with me first and foremost. I’m in there to win.’’