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Tim Bradley Jr.'s boxing career has been a bit more complicated than that of the average fighter.

In essence, he is the lottery winner who collects his payoff, steps outside and is hit by a bus.

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He is the bridegroom who says his vows, walks his bride down the aisle and is left on the church steps as she climbs into a car with her old boyfriend.

He is the guy who makes a hole in one at a charity golf tournament on the hole that doesn't have the new car.

On June 9, 2012, Bradley was an appealing, easy-to-sell opponent for the then-hottest name in boxing, Manny Pacquiao. The Philippine star had not lost for seven years and had been so dominating that each new opponent was looked upon as fortunate to be able to cash a nice loser's check.

Along the way, Pacquiao had punched Ricky Hatton's lights out and had made his big climb into the frontal lobe of general sports fans when he embarrassed the fight icon Oscar De La Hoya.

Pacquiao-Bradley was to be another nice night of entertainment for fight fans and another night of celebration in the Philippines. It's lead-up hadn't come close to dominating the sports scene. Baseball was in full swing, the NBA Finals were three days from beginning and there was a Triple Crown on the line in New York at the Belmont.

Little did the sports world expect that trainer Doug O'Neill would find an injured tendon on I'll Have Another and scratch him the day before the race.

Nor did the sports world see the stunner coming at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Bradley beat Pacquiao. At least, that's what the judges' cards said.

Press row, a pretty good gauge of such things, was stunned. One judge who had Bradley winning, C.J. Ross, eventually stepped away from the sport. Months later, they did a mock run-through of the fight off the film and all four judges involved scored it a win for Pacquiao.

So, instead of pure joy, Bradley faced skepticism. Still does, to this day.

Sports figures acquire non-erasable identity in landmark moments. Joe Namath called the Super Bowl. The Kings' Marty McSorley got caught with an illegal stick. Baseball player Lou Gehrig told the world he was the luckiest man in it.

Years from now, Bradley's obit will go no deeper than the third sentence before it says, "Bradley, who beat Manny Pacquiao in a controversial decision in 2012…."

Three and a half years have passed. Now, Bradley is on the eve of what could be a spectacular fight Saturday against Brandon Rios at the Thomas & Mack Center. He has lost only once — the Pacquiao rematch — since that June night in 2012.

And yet the first Pacquiao decision will never quite go away.

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Bradley is asked here Thursday: Does it bother you that people still talk about it, that they still view it is a bad decision?

"Of course," he says, and the eyes harden.

"Even though it happened years ago, it stays around, like a sore thumb."

He has never pounded on the table and said there was no question that he won. Bradley doesn't trash talk, and he has remained steady on this topic from the very reading of the fight cards. They are the judges.

Nevertheless, while saying that he is no longer affected by it and has done what is necessary for an athlete in cases such as this — "I've put it behind me" — he knows it is still there, that it is inescapable.

"You're talking to somebody," he says, "and that fight comes up. You can see it in their eyes. That you didn't win that fight, that it was a gift.

"Why wouldn't that still bother you?"

Bradley says his wife, Monica, who is also his manager, has helped him immensely on this topic.

"She always tells me," he says, "only control those things that you can."

Obviously, public perception is the ultimate uncontrollable.

With every fight, however, Bradley inches a bit further from the shadow of "The Decision." He changed managers, to his wife, and trainers, to Teddy Atlas. And at the pre-fight news conference Thursday at the sponsoring Wynn Las Vegas hotel and casino, he used the occasion for an unprompted and firm response to his critics, those who, apparently, have judged his recent team changes with furrowed brows.

"I'm an intelligent person," he said. "I know what I am doing. I have control of things. I don't even know how many houses I have and I own them all. My kids go to the best schools in the [Palm Springs] area. When they are ready for college, the money is there."

From many, especially in the braggadocio world of boxing, that would translate quickly to arrogance. In Bradley's case, it was merely taking his moment to debunk the impression that his recent moves are those of a fighter out of control.

His message was meant to convey the exact opposite.

Rios is a brawler. Bradley's new trainer, Atlas, describes Rios' style best when he says, "He's the kind of fighter who starts moving forward during the national anthem."

Bradley said he is in control — of his life and of his fighting tactics. Meaning, if all goes well and he wins impressively, the ghost of Pacquiao retreats a bit further into the background.

Twitter: @DwyreLATimes

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