After years of remaining undefeated Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley now has to prove his last fight didn’t scatter his brains and leave symptoms of shell shock.
It never ends.
WBO welterweight titlist Bradley (30-0, 12 Kos) is set to fight Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez (55-6-1, 40 Kos), a prizefighter with more knockouts than the Palm Springs boxer has wins. But questions about his recovery twirled around like stars during a recent telephone press conference.
Is Bradley the same fighter?
“For me as a trainer, it’s always a concern. He was reacting pretty good, answering questions the right way,” said Joel Diaz, who has trained Bradley (seen in Chris Farina-Top Rank photo) for his pro career.
Diaz was talking about Bradley’s return to training after a grueling and mind numbing clash against Russian juggernaut Ruslan Provodnikov last March 16. During the fight the Palm Springs speedster often traded blows and absorbed more punches than seemingly all of his pro fights put together. Worries about Bradley suffering combat stress seemed a concern.
Bradley admitted suffering from dizzy spells and slurred speech after the fight. It was enough of a concern that he sought advice from friends.
“I know some guys in the NFL that got me some help,” said Bradley, adding that they recommended a doctor whose expertise is with concussions. “In Long Beach he assisted me and gave me some therapy work.”
Bradley spent months recuperating and staying away from the boxing gym.
“We’re back to normal now. My speech is not slurry no more. I never worry,” Bradley said about the experience. “I’ve got treatment for the last five months.”
On Bradley’s first day in the gym, on August 1, I happened to catch the welterweight working out for the first time. He looked much heavier and had a big beard and a lot of hair on his head, resembling Isaac Hayes with hair. As he moved through his routines he looked a little slower but it was understandable with the extra weight. Though heavier, he didn’t look fat. Though slower, he was still faster than most boxers.
“I noticed a little bit of difference. He was a little off balance but he started getting better. He was a little bit heavy,” Diaz said.
Bradley finished his routine that day and walked up to me saying “come back in mid-September. Then see how I look. I promise you I’ll look a lot better.”
On Sept. 17, I visited again to see Bradley and the speed in his punches was blinding. I always found it amusing that many boxing pundits felt Bradley was slow until he dismantled several world champions and then beat Manny Pacquiao.
“He never gets credit,” said Monica Bradley, his wife, while holding their two-month old baby. “He works so hard.”
After the brutal affair with Provodnikov, many wondered if Bradley lost that extra tick in his reflexes. It’s a valid question, especially when there’s a history of fighters affected by similar wars. You never know.
Back in the 1980s when Roberto Duran was bludgeoned and eventually knocked out by Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns, many predicted the Panamanian fighter’s demise too. Instead, “Manos de Piedra” returned for many more fights including several more world title fights. He didn’t lose again by knockout due to punches for another 14 years.
Diaz thinks Bradley is ready even for the likes of Mexico City’s boxing wizard Marquez.
“He’s been getting hit really hard and he responded very good,” said Diaz, adding that one of the sparring sessions was with hard-hitting Lucas Matthysse. “His ability to move and his reflexes are very, very sharp.”
Are they sharp enough to beat the likes of Marquez?
“I’m going to whip his *** and I’m going to win the fight. I’m going to get in there and beat Marquez,” said Bradley, who was stirred by the lack of belief in his abilities. “That’s it. And the world is going to see it.”
Doesn’t sound like combat stress.
Bradley fights Marquez on Oct. 12 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. HBO will televise the Top Rank event.