On Saturday, before Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez resume their battle, Timothy Bradley will try to put a good ending on a difficult year.
The past year has hardly been the highlight of Bradley's career. The young and talented junior welterweight title-holder has been more involved in business than boxing in a year that saw him make several big changes to his inner circle.
Bradley began the year defeating Devon Alexander on Jan. 29 by technical decision after a clash of heads in the 10th round. What was supposed to be a major fight between two young, talented, undefeated Americans turned into a dud of a fight with an unsatisfying ending. Alexander was given the majority of the blame for not engaging, but Bradley deservedly was criticized as well, especially for his head-first style that caused multiple cuts on head butts.
Following the Alexander fight, the saving grace of a disappointing fight was supposed to be that Bradley and fellow 140-pound top dog Amir Khan would get it on for supremacy in the division. Bradley was even offered a 50/50 split of all revenue, including the UK money Khan generates. But then rumblings began that Bradley would pass and was far more interested in a fight with his promoter Gary Shaw than Amir Khan.
Bradley 27-0 (11 KO) felt that he was not being promoted properly and not being made into a star. So, he passed on the fight with Khan, drawing heavy criticism from writers and fans that he was ducking the British titleholder. Bradley expressed he was not fazed by the critique and knew, along with manager Cameron Dunkin, he was doing what was needed to move his career forward.
"Cameron, myself and my wife, we all sit down and talk a lot. We thought about what direction we want to take our career in," Bradley said. "We saw that the other direction we were going in was not the right direction, so we had to make some changes. Cameron has been in the game for 25 years and last time we checked, criticism doesn't pay the bills. So, everyone can criticize and say whatever they want, it doesn't pay the bills at all. Cameron believes that I'm a great champion, he believes I can compete with the best fighters in the world. I believe in him and that's how we got through this, through all these hard times these last couple of months. I had to believe in Cameron, believe in my abilities and believe in myself."
Dunkin had similar thoughts, expressing that they did what was necessary to move Bradley's career in the right direction.
"I knew I was doing the right thing," Dunkin said. "I have been doing this for 20-some years now. I knew Top Rank is the best promoter in the world and knew what they could do for Tim and his family. I took a lot of bashing, but knew in the end it would come out great and it certainly has."
Not that it was always easy to stay out of the ring and take the comments, especially pertaining to Khan, but Bradley felt the Khan fight was unnecessary at the time and believed he had to make the move to a new promotional company.
"A part of me wanted to get in the ring and do what I wanted to do, but I had a plan," Bradley said. "It really didn't matter if I were to fight Amir Khan or not. If I were to fight Amir Khan and beat him, I don't think it would have done anything for my career. I didn't feel like I was with the right promotional company. I didn't feel like they pushed me to make me a big superstar and actually brought me out and showed the boxing world, and not only the boxing world, but the crossover masses. The housewife who loves boxing, I never got that kind of exposure. I think with Top Rank, they bring that. If I was to fight Amir Khan with Top Rank, I think it would be huge. You got the top promotional company advertising the fight. Doing what they are supposed to do, spending the money to advertise the fight, to make money and make their fighters a superstar. We made the right choice."
So now Bradley has what he desired. He is with one of boxing's promotional giants in Top Rank, headed by long-time promoter Bob Arum. He has the backing of a company he believes can grow his fan base and put him on the big stage. He starts this Saturday as the top undercard spot against Joel Casamayor on the Pacquiao/Marquez telecast (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET).
"I'm just excited and actually honored to fight on a Manny Pacquiao card," Bradley said. "I have never fought on a major attraction like this in my whole career. I'm ready to shine. I am hoping to show the world who Timothy Bradley is. I've been working hard for the last seven weeks. I'm ready to go. I could fight tomorrow. I'm excited, fully amped up for this, definitely going to put on a show on the 12th."
Arum is also excited to have Bradley in his vast stable of fighters. He believes the California native has what it takes to be a huge star in the sport.
"This starts what I am sure will be a memorable association between Top Rank, Tim and Cameron (Dunkin). We look forward to Nov. 12. It surely will be a mega audience. We've been sold out for about six weeks. Complete sellout. I have taken in close to $12 million at the box office. The sales we are doing on close circuit in Las Vegas are sales that anybody would be happy about concerning attendance at a live event. We are looking forward to a tremendous week and a great weekend in Las Vegas. Tim Bradley fighting the semi-windup on the event against Joel Casamayor really enhances this card. I believe that people not only in the United States, but the hundreds of millions all over the world that will be watching this event will have an opportunity, perhaps, for the first time to see Tim and how good he is which is one of the main reasons we put him on this card."
Bradley's opponent Saturday, Joel Casamayor 38-5-1 (22 KO) is well past his prime, but what matters for the Desert Storm is that he is in the chief supporting bout on this weekend's PPV event. The fight is likely a serious mismatch where Bradley should dominate and look good doing it to get back into the minds of fans.
"It's very important for me to put on a great show," Bradley said. "It's an honor just to be on the show. I wasn't happy with the performance with Devon Alexander. I couldn't make that guy fight and sometimes that happens. It depends, basically on how Casamayor comes out, if he wants to fight then we definitely gonna fight.
"That's always a thought on my mind that I have to put on a performance because of this opportunity. I can't let myself buy into the hype. I have to fight my fight, that's what it boils down to; I have to fight my fight. I'm gonna look good in there, I'm gonna look great in there. But I'm not going to go out and try and look great. I'm gonna put on a show, but I'm not gonna try. I don't know if you understand what I'm saying, but I can't be something that I'm not and go for a knockout and end up getting myself caught and knocked out. I'm gonna fight my game plan, fight my fight and I'm gonna look spectacular."
Casamayor at this stage of his career should be cannon fodder to get Bradley exposure and lead him into bigger bouts. The minute Bradley signed with Top Rank, speculation began that he would be a future opponent for Paquiao. Arum stated no conversations have been had with Pacquiao about an opponent past this weekend and stated no promises were made to Bradley about a Pacquiao fight. Still, Bradley covets getting a crack at the big stars in the sport.
"I'm willing to fight the best fighters in the world," Bradley said. "I really don't have a whole list of opponents. Everybody already knows I want to fight the pound-for-pound best, either Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather. Those are the two cream of the crop, those are the two I want to be in the ring with. Will I get my chance? Maybe, maybe not. I'm just looking to fight the best fighters in the world. I really don't have any particular names or a list. I have a real true promotional team now that is going to take me to the next level."
Time will tell if Bradley made an intelligent decision by sitting out for months, passing on the Khan fight to get out of his contract with Gary Shaw and sign with Top Rank. He strongly believes his career will move upward in a hurry with new promotional guidance, but will probably always be seen as ducking Khan by many in the media and fans.
First, he has to go out and handle business against Casamayor and look good doing it, which can be difficult against the crafty Cuban who often makes opponents look less than spectacular.