Tim Bradley back in ring after Pacquiao stunner

March 16, 2013

Timothy Bradley no longer cares whether anyone thinks he won his fight with Manny Pacquiao last year. At least that's what he's telling everybody who keeps asking about it.

Bradley knows what he thought in the ring when the split decision stunningly went his way. He hasn't changed his mind after receiving criticism, ridicule and death threats for simply ending up on the right side of two judges' scorecards.

''It was like I stole something from somebody,'' Bradley said. ''A lot of people were affected by it. That was a really low point in my life. It just spread like wildfire: `You didn't win! Give the belt back!' It just went around and around.''

Bradley still thinks he beat Pacquiao in one of the biggest upsets in recent boxing history, even if he gained almost nothing from it. He couldn't land a rematch with Pacquiao, and he turned down other fights while struggling to entice the world's best welterweights to face him.

Nine months after that shocker in Las Vegas, Bradley (29-0, 12 KOs) returns on Saturday under the softer lights of Carson, California, defending his WBO 147-pound (67-kilogram) title against unheralded Ruslan Provodnikov (22-1, 15 KOs). He's ready to move on with his career, even if the fight will haunt him for a bit longer.

''I worked my butt off for 18 years to get to this point, and then it hit me: I didn't gain anything from the Pacquiao fight except experience,'' he said. ''I didn't get any credit for beating him. It wasn't what I expected at all.''

Even while insisting he's ready for the next steps in his career, Bradley knows he'll always have to discuss his win over Pacquiao. He doesn't know if many fans even realize he finished the fight on two bad feet: He pulled ligaments in his left foot in the second round and sprained his right foot in the fourth round, but managed to finish even when his corner wondered if he should sit down.

''That's not how I do it,'' Bradley said. ''I'm not going to let down the fans, all the people at home. It was remarkable what I was able to do. ... But that's what I learned. All you've really got to do against Pacquiao is move. If you move, he gets tired of chasing you, and you can outbox him. It was easy.''

The decision left Bradley and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum in an uncomfortable position. Although Arum signed Bradley in late 2011 and promised him the career he always imagined, Pacquiao has been Top Rank's most important fighter for several years.

What's more, Arum vehemently disagreed with the decision in public, saying ''everyone in boxing should be ashamed'' and even demanding a government investigation into the judging.

Bradley, Arum and Top Rank's Todd duBoef eventually ironed out any hurt feelings, although Bradley didn't hesitate to needle Arum from the podium during a news conference this week.

''He's not responsible for the decision, and neither was I,'' Arum said. ''He had to live with it, and so do I. But I think he's handled it in the best way possible, and what's important is getting Timothy Bradley moving on the road to more victories and bigger fights.''

Although Bradley is a model citizen - a vegan, a devoted family man and a strident advocate for drug testing - he has also made a few head-scratching career decisions. He turned down a million-dollar payday against Amir Khan two years ago, resisted overtures from Robert Guerrero last year, and declined a rematch with 140-pound champion Lamont Peterson for Miami in December.

And while Bradley is an athletic, accomplished technical boxer, his distinct lack of knockout power - just one stoppage victory in his last 11 fights since April 2007 - limits his appeal to casual fight fans.

But Provodnikov is an intriguing opponent for Bradley. The powerful Russian has been a difficult sparring partner for Pacquiao at the Wild Card gym under the guidance of their mutual trainer, Freddie Roach.

While Bradley isn't taking Provodnikov lightly, the champion only gave the shot to Provodnikov after Cuba's Yuriorkis Gamboa turned it down in January. Bradley is confident he'll take care of Provodnikov and move on to bigger challenges, saying he wants to fight several times in 2013.

He also knows he'll probably never be finished with questions about the night he beat Pacquiao, even if he wins every bout decisively for the rest of his career. Bradley can't do anything about it, and he insists he doesn't mind.

''It was a great experience to be in the ring with a legend,'' Bradley said. ''I can say I was in the ring with Pacquiao.''