It is unusual in sports for the winning party to feel as though they have anything to avenge. But after Tim Bradley won a controversial decision over Manny Pacquiao on June 9, 2012, there was a feeling Bradley should fight the Filipino superstar again.
The opportunity was there, but Bradley, an undefeated 30-year-old California native, chose a different route and decided to defend his WBO welterweight title against Juan Manuel Marquez, another one of the sport’s pound-for-pound best and the man who knocked Pacquiao out two months after his loss to Bradley on Dec. 8, 2012. It was the fourth time Marquez fought Pacquiao. (Pacquiao won two straight disputed decisions after the two fought to a draw in their first meeting in May 2004.)
With the fight now just days away (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET on HBO PPV), a win over Marquez would do just as much, if not more, for Bradley’s reputation than a rematch with Pacquiao would have provided.
"I feel he’s had his time and now it’s my time, so I wanted to get a shot before he left the game," Bradley said. "That’s the reason why I chose (Marquez). I wanted to fight and beat another legend in the sport and add to my legacy as opposed to going over, fighting Pacquiao and opening those dark doors again and going down that road. I wanted to do something different."
In his last fight, Bradley came out with something to prove against hard-punching Ruslan Provodnikov. Rather than box, he brawled with the "Siberian Rocky" and took numerous hard punches, appeared to be out on his feet several times and was eventually knocked down in the final round, beating the count to secure a unanimous decision win.
Following the fight, Bradley admitted to suffering a concussion and said his speech was slurred for months following that grueling battle. He says he was fully recovered by the time camp started for Marquez though, and he trained harder than ever in preparation.
"I’m feeling fantastic. I’m feeling 110 percent," Bradley said. "It has been a tough camp and I am really pushing it in camp. I really trained really hard for this fight. I’m ready to go and I’m ready for Marquez."
Part of that is the knowledge that he is in with one of the best boxers of our time, one who Bradley calls the best he’s ever been in with.
"This is the toughest guy. Manny Pacquiao is very tough, but this guy knocked out Pacquiao and he’s had numerous fights with Pacquiao where it was very close and there was controversy over wins and losses," Bradley said. "With that being said, this guy is the toughest opponent today, so I understand the challenge that’s ahead of me."
Marquez, a skilled counter-puncher, and regarded as one of the finest technicians in the sport, will enter the ring at 40 years of age. Bradley believes his youth and speed will more than offset his opponent’s tactical skills.
"I know I’m faster than him and in most sports, the quicker man wins," Bradley said. "I can box, I can mix it and I can make adjustments on the fly. I’m 10 years younger than him. I have less miles on my body than this guy who has been in numerous wars. In the Pacquiao fight, he was on the verge of being knocked out before he knocked him out. I can’t wait to feel this guy and feel his power and bite down on my mouthpiece and grind it out."
That is what Bradley does. He wins, and he has done it against opponents of all types. He has thought about what a win over Marquez would do for his legacy. He believes it will make him a Hall of Fame shoo-in, place him in the sport’s pound-for-pound top three, and possibly position himself for a fight with Floyd Mayweather.
That all goes out the window if he gets caught like he did against Provodnikov.
"If I fight like that against Marquez, it will be an early night," Bradley said. "He definitely will make me pay and knock me out. He’s a good finisher. Marquez has that experience and big-fight experience, and he knows how to finish a hurt guy. I’m going to use my head to win this fight."
It is Bradley’s heart though, which has gotten him to this point. He has never been one to back down from exchanging and his chin and iron will are championship quality. He is well aware of his nature, so he admits that, while the plan is to come out and box, fans can expect combustion at some point between two of the sport’s very best.
"I think towards the middle rounds, you’ll start to see me and Marquez mix it up a little bit because if I don’t feel like I’m winning the fight, then I’m going to turn it up regardless of what anybody says in my corner," Bradley said. "We could expect a war maybe in the middle rounds of the fight."