“Relaxed confidence” might be the best phrase to describe Timothy Bradley’s mindset headed into his rematch with Manny Pacquiao this Saturday (April 12) on HBO. The anger and depression that characterized Bradley’s life after winning a controversial decision over Pacquiao back in May 2012 has long been erased courtesy of a remarkable 2013. That calendar year saw Bradley engage in one of the more brutal and dramatic fights in recent memory in barely surviving Ruslan Provodnikov via a split decision. Last October, he added Pacquiao-conqueror Juan Manuel Marquez to his ledger, out-boxing one the sport’s elite counter-punchers.
On Saturday, Bradley will go into the ring not as the paper champion many saw him as after the first bout. He now has the wins, skill and self-belief that command the respect, if at times grudging, of the fans. But will that be enough to defeat a Pacquiao vowing to return to his ferocious, merciless roots?
Knockout Nation: The selling point of this fight has been whether Manny Pacquiao can find his killer instinct. But considering that he’s been an active fighter since 1995, how much of the supposed “lack of fire” can be attributed to just aging and not being physically able to maintain that previous frenetic pace?
Timothy Bradley: No, I honestly don’t see any lack in his abilities. He’s a fantastic, dynamic fighter. I came to my conclusion [about his fire] from stuff I was reading from his own fans. I started paying attention to things Freddie and Manny would say as well. Freddie would say how compassionate he was getting and how he didn’t like to beat up his sparring partners. I was like “this is really weird.”
In the Rios fight he would engage, but he wouldn’t engage in a slugfest. In the last round he even stepped back when he was hitting him with every shot in the kitchen. In the HBO Face Off, he couldn’t even say he would knock me out. Are you serious? C’mon, man. Are you still a fighter?
KO Nation: Has this made you feel that you’ve had to carry the promotion?
Bradley: Pacquiao’s not really a talker and neither am I. I just state the facts. That’s all I did – the promotion piggy-backed off it and that’s great.
KO Nation: The one big question a lot of fans have about you is the recent decision to sign an extension with Top Rank. You’ve fought most of the top guys they have to offer; most of what’s left will be rematches. What made you stay with them as opposed to Golden Boy, who has more fighters in your division and also the most lucrative matchup for your weight class in Floyd Mayweather?
Bradley: That’s a really good question, man. First of all, I have a great relationship with Top Rank. I’ve been with them a few years and I’ve grown working with them. We cleared the air [on the first Pacquiao fight controversy].
I could fight a lot of guys from from Golden Boy. But if you look at their cards, they’re all stacked up. These guys are making money, but they’re not making my money [chuckles]. Top Rank pays the most, man. The fact that these cards are stacked all the time, it limits the budget. You gotta spread that love with all the other guys.
There is no guarantee I would have got to fight Floyd Mayweather – look at Amir Khan. I wasn’t really secure on that when I weighed all my options. I really thought on it. I knew what I could get with Top Rank. I didn’t want to take that gamble [on Golden Boy]. I didn’t want to risk my family’s future. The last two years I’ve made a whole lot of money with Top Rank — A LOT of money. After that Amir Khan thing happened, I knew I made the perfect choice.
Amir held out for a whole year thinking he was fighting Floyd and then Floyd was like “Uh uh, you gotta go beat my little brother. Go do this and this…” Wow, are you serious? That’s the main reason why I made my decision. When you look at the numbers game, I’d have to fight 4-5 guys to make what I’m getting on April 12.
KO Nation: Speaking of Khan, you were ironically accused of ducking him when you first went to Top Rank. When you look at his career and Devon Alexander’s, two guys who were once considered your peers, you’ve blown past them in the last two years. Do you feel any particular enjoyment in getting the “last laugh” in those rivalries?
Bradley: I haven’t paid too much attention to it. But now that you mention it and I think about it, you are right! [laughs] The funny thing you mentioned about the whole ducking thing, I mean, ducking Amir Khan? C’mon, man. [snickers] I didn’t duck him. I just made the right business move for me. I saw a small window of opportunity and took it. The same thing he tried to do with Devon Alexander and it backfired on him. Mine didn’t and worked out for the best.
KO Nation: All the officials in this fight, down to referee Kenny Bayless, have never been involved in your fights before. One of the things judges are supposed to be scoring is defense. No matter how someone personally scored the fight, they have to acknowledge that you did a great job in nullifying a lot of Pacquiao’s offense. As a fighter, why do you think defense is so overlooked despite being an important scoring criterion?
Bradley: The judges in the first fight saw my defense and saw Pacquiao was fighting 30 seconds of every round and they paid close attention. They saw me staying busy, landing good body shots and basically out-maneuvering him in the second half of the fight. That’s how I took over.
I really don’t know why guys don’t get credit for defense. It’s one of the things that’s most effective. You make a guy miss, and then you make him pay. That’s what we do; making guys pay with counter shots and that is how I win on the cards.
There are a lot of things I can do in the ring. One, I come in tremendous shape. Two, I got a lot of speed and am very athletic. Three, I’m smart in the ring. And finally I can brawl when needed. I got in trouble in the Provodnikov fight, but I fought out of it and got the victory. Don’t forget I can box and get out of the way. Another thing is I’m very elusive.
A lot of people sell me short because they don’t think I have a lot of punching power. Well, if I didn’t have any, these guys would be running through me. None of these guys have done that because they know if I land on that head, they’re gonna feel those punches.
KO Nation: Speaking of power, there was a video a few years back showing Tommy Hearns giving you some pointers on getting the best leverage on your punches. Have you noticed a change in your power since that session?
Bradley: Absolutely. My power has definitely risen over the last few fights. When I stay relaxed, I shift my body and I’m way more powerful and explosive. I showed that in the last fight with Marquez when I almost dropped him in the 12th round. It’s all crisp shots and sharp-shooting. The last year and a half has been all about improving technique.
KO Nation: Despite their styles being very different, both Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao have struggled with good boxers. Will you have to alter your strategy much from what we saw against Marquez?
Bradley: I prepare for every aspect no matter who I fight. I’m ready to slug, I’m ready to box and do whatever it takes to win the fight. That my thing; I don’t just have one game plan. I make adjustments in the ring. If I make mistakes, Pacquiao will make me pay. But if he doesn’t knock me out, I’ll make the adjustments needed. That’s how champions are built. It’s not gonna be easy for any guy that fights me.
KO Nation: Pacquiao and Freddie Roach still maintain that you ran in the first fight. Despite everything that’s been said on their side about taking this fight seriously, do you still feel they underestimate your ability?
Bradley: How many times has Freddie Roach beat me or my trainer? He hasn’t beat us not one time. In the Philippines they saying running is boxing. I had that argument with Pacquiao when I was face to face with him. I said, “When you’re moving and punching from angles against Rios, what was that?”[Imitates Pacquiao] “I-I-I ran…”
No, you boxed! For all who don’t know, in the Philippines they call “boxing” running. I’m not offended by the running thing because I boxed. That’s what I do, the Sweet Science. This isn’t rock ‘em, sock ‘em robots. This isn’t Rocky. For fans who like that, they saw me do that already against Provodnikov. I mix it up and do whatever I got to do to win the fight. And that’s what I’ll do April 12.
Pacquiao vs. Bradley 2 takes place Sat., April 12 live on pay-per-view beginning at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT.