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Timothy Bradley Jr. thinks Teddy Atlas has him on path to victory over Pacquiao

With age comes maturity. With belief comes confidence. With Teddy Atlas in his corner, Timothy Bradley Jr. hopes, comes an undisputed victory.

Bradley reasons that his path from a highly criticized split-decision triumph over Manny Pacquiao in 2012, followed by a convincing defeat in their 2014 bout and now Saturday's trilogy capper at MGM Grand is his great challenge in life.

"I honestly feel deep in my heart you have to suffer," Bradley said. "If you're not suffering, you're not understanding why you're doing what you're doing."

Bradley, 32, hurt his feet in the 2012 victory that most ringside watchers dismissed as poor judging, scrapping the celebration Bradley expected after his triumph and triggering depression. In the rematch Bradley was then hampered by calf pain, weakening an already flawed plan to chase a knockout against Pacquiao, and was dealt his first loss.

"I suffered those injuries for a reason, the controversy happened for a reason. … If you learn how to suffer, to make sacrifices, to build and learn from trials and tribulations, it'll make you a better person and fighter," said Bradley (33-1-1, 13 knockouts).

Last year, after Bradley was rocked by a 12th-round punch in a victory over Jessie Vargas, he decided to replace his longtime trainer, Joel Diaz, with Atlas.

Atlas, an ESPN boxing analyst who's worked with Mike Tyson and former heavyweight champion Michael Moorer, plotted a strategy for Bradley that relies less on extreme conditioning and all the intricacies of the sweet science in favor of more attention to defense.

In their first fight together, Bradley put on a strong boxing exhibition in his ninth-round technical knockout of former lightweight world champion Brandon Rios in November. Atlas once told him between rounds, "We're firemen!" willing to brave the blaze of an opponent's punching power with a smart counterattack.

Pacquiao (57-6-2, 38 KOs) was impressed enough to grant Bradley another fight in the Filipino's first bout since his May loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Bradley is a 2-1 underdog to Pacquiao. But with Atlas guiding him, Bradley believes his mental approach and training will make him less susceptible to a ring injury and "I feel I'm going to come out victorious.

"Before, I didn't have all of the pieces of the puzzle. Now, this third time around, [there's a] new trainer, new mind-set, new game plan. I feel like I'm refined.

"It's a smarter approach to everything. … This is the best opportunity I have to beat Manny Pacquiao."

Atlas admits he's obsessed with finding ways for Bradley to win, and the proof exists on large index cards he stashes in his pocket. One was scribbled with notes such as "Block and move drill," "Step and punch," reminders of what Bradley needs to perfect.

"I joke [about the index cards] that this is what you do when you're born in 1956 … you remind yourself of things you don't want to forget," Atlas said. "I thought I was the only one who did it. Then somebody said John Wooden used to, so I said, 'I'm not in bad company.'

"The thing that concerns me, the thing that burdens me every day — morning, noon and night — is not to fail my responsibility to this kid."

Atlas appreciates how Bradley took a lesser road to become a two-division world champion.

Bradley wasn't a world-class prospect and recalled this week the vulnerability of four-round fights — "[if] you get knocked down, the best you can do is a draw" — and of scrapping in small venues like a Corona lumberyard and Ontario hotel ballroom.

"I came up the hard way," Bradley said. "It made me stronger. It felt like I was fighting for something, like I had to get somewhere. It made me relevant.

"Manny Pacquiao can fill an arena. Not sure I can reach that stature, but I would like to do the next best thing, and that's beating Manny Pacquiao."

Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter: @latimespugmire

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