Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley may be the one of the few undefeated prizefighters that could truly be called the Rodney Dangerfield of boxing.
Think of it.
Since 2004, when Bradley entered the professional boxing ring, experts, fans and casual observers have casually shrugged him off, with a “nothing special” kind of look on their faces. Despite facing and defeating a long list of opponents that were favored to beat him, respect has not swung in the Palm Spring boxer’s direction. Not at all.
A lesser man would have crumbled at the disrespect sent in Bradley’s direction but for 10 years he’s plowed through it all with a revved up determination that can best be described as manic.
“I’m hungry man,” said Bradley. “This is everything I ever wanted.”
Words have been exchanged through the media between the two smaller-sized welterweights about who has lost their zeal and who’s full of beans. This fight has 10 times more anticipation than their first encounter.
For a second time WBO welterweight titlist Bradley (31-0, 12 Kos) meets legendary fighter Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao (55-5-2, 38 Kos) on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Respect will certainly mean much more to the winner in this fight. HBO pay-per-view will televise the card.
When Pacquiao first arrived on American shores it was easy to recognize his abundance of talent as he buzzed through IBF junior featherweight titleholder Lehlo Ledwaba with a blur of punches and power not seen very often. The fact it was televised by HBO created an instant reputation that few boxers have ever enjoyed. Plus, that night in 2001, Pacman kept the machine purring with his willingness to meet and destroy every opponent placed in his path.
Bradley’s path has been much different.
“I came up the hard way. I came up through the back door,” said Bradley, who was passed over by the big promotion companies when he turned pro.
The Palm Springs boxer was fed some of the toughest and most dangerous boxers not toting a AK-47 or machete. Many of Bradley’s foes were guys that nobody wanted to fight for one reason or another. You may not know who they are but on the club shows in California they were the undesirables.
One of those was current IBF lightweight world champion Miguel Vasquez, whose only defeats came against Bradley and four fights later to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. At the time the Mexican champion met Bradley, both were much avoided boxers on the rise. That night Bradley’s speed and persistence proved the difference in the win that took place outdoors in the Corona heat. It was the first time Bradley had met a boxer who forced the speed Palm Springs fighter to alter his game plan.
“Oh man, he was a tricky fighter,” said Bradley about Mexico’s Vasquez. “You couldn’t get a bead on him. He has good movement.”
From that point on Bradley faced a long list of fighters that he was not favored to defeat, such as Junior Witter, Edner Cherry, Kendall Holt, Nate Campbell, Lamont Peterson, Luis Abregu, and Devon Alexander. Of course he was not favored to defeat Pacquiao or Juan Manuel Marquez either.
“I don’t know what it is, man,” says Bradley. “But early on people just didn’t seem to believe in me.
Pacquiao hasn’t had problems in that department at all. And it’s simple to understand that critics, bookmakers, experts and fans all love power punchers. In boxing the world loves a boxer who can put his opponent down for the count.
Bradley’s knockout numbers pale next to Pacman’s. When he tried to emulate the Filipino slugger he was nearly decapitated by Russia’s Ruslan Provodnikov. Ironically, that was the only fighter in years Bradley was favored to beat.
Through it all, though Bradley remains undefeated, he lacks respect from the boxing world. Well, not entirely. Those who watched or faced Bradley in the amateurs remember his fiery abilities in the boxing ring.
Andre Ward and More
Current super middleweight world champion Andre Ward remembers battling the much smaller Bradley back in the day.
“Tim Bradley was tough,” said super middleweight world champion Ward, who is now recognized as one of the top prizefighters pound for pound. “He was the toughest guy I faced in the amateurs.”
Others, like two-division world champion Paul “Magic Man” Malignaggi, also saw Bradley fight much bigger middleweights and come out the victor.
“He was tough for everybody who fought him,” remembers Malignaggi.
Ask boxers like Andre Dirrell, Vanes Martirosyan and Ward about Bradley’s abilities. They view Bradley’s boxing skills much differently than fans, critics or so-called experts. Even Pacquiao’s trainer refrains from discounting the Palm Spring fighter’s talent.
“Bradley is a very tough guy. He takes good shots. He has a good chin. He fought concussed against Ruslan and he didn’t know where he was,” said Freddie Roach, adding that it might prove a factor in their coming fight.
But the only factor that matters on Saturday will be who emerges the winner and who moves on. It could be Pacquiao’s last fight as a big name attraction or it could be Bradley’s.
“Pacquiao is going to be vicious. I think I pissed him off. I got under his skin by saying that he lost it. He's been training hard and I heard throughout the grapevine he has been looking sharp - and that's his job, he needs to be at his very best,” said Bradley, 30, about words exchanged through the media. “And I have been working hard too, so we can put on a show for the fans and that's what it's all about.”
Pacquiao has some words to say about Bradley’s comments and might be looking for his first knockout win in four years. Or maybe not?
“Sometimes you knock the opponent out and sometimes you don’t,” said Pacquiao when asked why he hasn’t knocked anyone out in his past seven fights. “The more he (Bradley) says it, the more it inspires me to show the hunger and the killer instinct he is talking about.”
It should prove a very interesting night. But will a Bradley win finally bring him the respect he deserves?