On June 9, 2012, Timothy Bradley Jr. was an unknown entering into a fight with the one of the greatest boxers of the decade, Manny Pacquiao. Fast forward almost two years and Bradley is an undefeated welterweight champion with wins against three of the top five boxers in his weight class.
“I’m in a different situation than I was the last time,” Bradley tells Vegas Seven as he prepares for a rematch with Pacquiao Saturday at the MGM Grand. “I beat a guy that knocked out Manny; I’ve been in every type of fight between a war and a boxing match. My confidence is high.”
Maybe so, but Bradley also has a lot to prove. The first fight between these two ended in controversy as then-champion Pacquiao lost a decision to Bradley, who was hit with early round combinations but was the more consistent boxer that night. The victory was a shocking refutation of that old boxing adage, You have to beat the champion, the champion doesn’t have to beat you.
The controversial decision has changed both fighter’s careers drastically. Bradley has since defended his title twice, once dominating Juan Manuel Marquez who had come off a fifth-round knockout of Pacquiao. Nevertheless, odds were running about 2 to 1 in favor of Pacquiao Thursday, with the Filipino fighter’s name appearing first on all posters and marketing campaigns leading up to the fight.
“Even though I’m going in as the champion I’m still the underdog and I embrace the underdog role,” says Bradley, who nonetheless criticizes Pacquiao’s focus leading up to the fight. “I question his killer instinct…I question if he really wants to fight or not. Why is he doing it? I think his mind is in other places.”
Bradley’s not the only one speculating that Pacquiao is distracted by his job as a congressman in the Philippines, or simply ready to retire. Still, for the memory of 2012’s split decision to fade, Bradley will not only have to win this weekend’s fight, he will have to do so in spectacular fashion.
Bradley says he thinks Pacquiao is feeling the heat this time around. “I think he knows what he’s up against. I don’t think he is underestimating me at all. I think he knows that this will be a tough fight and I think [trainer] Freddie [Roach] knows that, too. They’re banking on a knockout and that’ll be what it takes to stop me… That’s not going to happen man. That’s not going to happen at all.”
Manny Pacquiao vs. Timothy Bradley Jr., April 12, MGM Grand Garden Arena. Main card begins at 6 p.m.