LAS VEGAS -- Timothy Bradley changed his fighting nature from boxer to brawler following the
criticism of his controversial split-decision win over Manny Pacquiao in 2012.
So, if he fought with such hostility in going toe to toe with Ruslan Provodnikov in last year’s fight of the year, doesn’t it make sense he’ll do the same against Pacquiao himself in their Saturday rematch?
“You’re damn right,” Bradley told The Times inside MGM Grand Garden Arena, site of the
unbeaten (31-0) Cathedral City fighter’s World Boxing Organization welterweight title defense. “If it needs to.”
Those words sell tickets and pay-per-views, but given how Bradley admitted to concussion
effects from the Provodnikov warfare and how successfully he leaned on his boxing skills to
edge Juan Manuel Marquez by split decision in October, his best route to victory appears to be returning to his lane as a boxer.
That’s what Pacquiao’s camp expects, especially in the first four rounds or so.
Bradley agrees: “If I fight this guy the way I fought Marquez, I’ll beat him easily.”
The greatest difference of opinion is over what happens if Bradley tries to fight Pacquiao
like he did Provodnikov, which former HBO analyst Larry Merchant marveled at Thursday as one of the greatest transformations he’s ever seen in the sport.
Pacquiao is clearly tired of hearing how he hasn’t knocked out anyone since 2009, and
insiders around the fight have said Bradley privately confided to them following the first bout that he’d never been hit harder than by the Filipino star.
But he talks a good game about his ability to handle exchanges.
If Pacquiao pursues the knockout, Bradley said, “he’ll leave himself opened up. He’s going
to let me hit him. He’s going to leave openings.
“They can feel that way [that Bradley can’t hurt Pacquiao] and come in reckless. I’m
going to land it right on the button and he’ll think twice about it … bring it to me. I believe everything’s possible in this game. I know I’ve got 12 knockouts, but I’ve got power.”
Bradley knows what the Provodnikov bout did for him in boosting his name value to the
general sports public while enriching the respect hard-core fans have for him. He’s not as close to retirement as Pacquiao, and said he’d like to win with some brawling involved to keep building his audience.
“If we’re fighting our fight, and my game plan isn’t working, then we’ll go to war, but
I’m going to give the fans the best fight of this year, I’m putting it all on the line,” Bradley said. “If I’m going to lose, I’m going to go down swinging. I’m not going to lose lying down, not going to just take a loss not doing work. If I’m going to lose, take me out on a stretcher.”
Well, paramedics did that the first time thanks to his foot and ankle injuries and he still won thanks to the horrific scoring of Duane Ford and C.J. Ross.
“The only thing that disappointed me about the first fight was the injuries … me being pain-free,
you saw, I took it to another dimension,” Bradley said. “Pacquiao, he’s never seen what he’s going to see Saturday night.”
Bradley said if the parties can never find a way to make a Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr.
fight, ”this is the closest one to it. You’ll see.”