By Tim Smith April 10, 2014, 11:52 AM EST
It is rare that the winner of a boxing championship comes to the post-match press conference in a wheelchair. So it was a strange sight watching Timothy Bradley, both feet swaddled in bandages, being wheeled into a big ballroom at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas by his father after the biggest victory of his career.
Bradley had just handed Manny Pacquiao his first defeat in nine years. It was a controversial split decision. He suffered a sprained right ankle and a strained ligament in his left foot during the bout. He made it through the fight on sheer grit. He made it out of the ring while adrenaline was still coursing through his body. When it had dissipated an hour later he could hardly stand, let alone walk. The physical pain was nothing compared to the mental anguish that Bradley endured at that press conference.
Bob Arum of Top Rank, Bradley and Pacquiao’s promoter, was so disgusted with the decision that he called for the Nevada Attorney General to investigate the judges who scored the match for Bradley. Of course Pacquiao was, and remains, Arum’s pay per view cash cow. So Arum was protecting his biggest investment. That left Bradley where he has always stood in boxing – on his own.
The Nevada Attorney General investigation didn’t discover any wrong doing on the part of the judges. But it didn’t do anything to stem the backlash against Bradley for beating Pacquiao. It was relentless.
"Up to now it follows us everywhere,’’ Joel Diaz, Bradley’s longtime trainer said of the aftermath of the Pacquiao fight in 2012. “We can’t approach society in any way. When they mention Manny Pacquiao and Bradley there is always that negative approach. It’s a nightmare. It’s been a nightmare the last few years.’’
Bradley hopes to end the nightmare when he takes on Pacquiao in a rematch at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas this Saturday, April 12.
Immediately after the first fight, Bradley tried to avoid as much of the backlash as possible. He stopped reading boxing websites. He stopped doing interviews with reporters. He retreated into his life with his wife, Monica, and their four children at his home in Palm Desert, California.
“It was a bad point in my life. I didn’t even know if I wanted to continue to fight,’’ he said. “It was the biggest fight of my career. I was always asking, “Why God? Why this?’’
He sought a rematch against Pacquiao to clear the decks. But Pacquiao decided to go in another direction. So Bradley had two choices. He could get out of boxing or he could chart another course, hoping that it would lead back to a rematch against Pacquiao.
Know this about Bradley- the word “quit’’ is not in his dictionary. So giving up, crawling into bed and pulling the covers over his head was not an option. The other thing you should know is that if there is a rocky, hard-scrabbled path, he will take it over the smooth, paved course every time.
Bradley once ran 23 miles through the Mojave Desert wearing boots and carrying a back pack just to see if he could do it.
“He knows his roots,’’ said Timothy Bradley Sr., Bradley’s father who goes by the name Ray. “My ancestors were slaves in Louisiana back in the days. We come from a mighty long way with the struggle that we’ve been through, the struggles that the family went through. That’s the values that I taught him.’’
Bradley knew blood and sweat would have to be shed to dull the roar of the backlash from that Pacquiao fight. So he took a match against Ruslan Provodnikov, a one-dimensional Russian brawler whose nickname is “The Siberian Rocky.’’ Provodnikov’s one dimension has a single gear – forward.
Bradley and Provodnikov both nearly knocked each other out during the fight. Bradley survived and took a unanimous 12-round decision to remain undefeated and retain the WBO welterweight title he had lifted from Pacquiao. Bradley-Provodnikov was voted the 2013 Fight of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
“The Provodnikov fight was a deadly fight,” said Bradley. “It was a fight that was a testament to never fight with your emotions. I fought that fight with emotions because of what happened to me in the first Pacquiao fight and the aftermath. I wanted to prove to everybody that I was a champion and that I deserved the belt, that I’m a true warrior. I set out to knock him out. I ended up almost getting knocked out.’’
Bradley, 30, learned a valuable lesson, and he had a revelation: If he wanted to have a lengthy boxing career, he couldn’t continue to fight the way he did against Provodnikov. He decided that in his next fight against Juan Manuel Marquez he would use more brain than brawn.