Timothy Bradley never gets his due. He probably never will. While the stank of a bogus win in 2012 over Manny Pacquiao did far more harm than good, and in some ways may have ruined his marketability forever, Bradley's put together a great run over the last six years, with titles at 140 and 147 pounds, and some legit big wins.
With his next fight slated for December on HBO, let's take a look at the career of Timothy Bradley. It might be a little better than you've realized.
- Juan Manuel Marquez (2013-10-12)
- Lamont Peterson (2009-12-12)
- Junior Witter (2008-05-10)
- Ruslan Provodnikov (2013-03-16)
- Devon Alexander (2011-01-29)
Note: Look. Let's get this out of the way. Tim Bradley's 2012 win over Manny Pacquiao was not a win for anyone. It wasn't ultimately a win for Bradley, it wasn't a win for boxing, it wasn't a win for boxing fans, it wasn't a win for the promoters, it wasn't a win for anyone. Maybe blogs, which experienced a surge of outraged traffic over the next couple weeks. Maybe Facebook pages for those blogs, where to this day people will boo and hiss every time Tim Bradley does anything, be it compete in a Fight of the Year, legitimately beat a legend, or save a baby from a burning building. But in no other way was it a victory, and certainly not for Bradley. He got a belt, he got a W, but he lost that fight and was gifted a decision. I cannot count it among his five best wins. If you judge only by the result and not anything else, it's No. 1.
That out of the way, let's talk about the fights that Bradley has legitimately won. And topping that list, clearly, is last October's fairly forgotten victory over Juan Manuel Marquez. Like, you remember that happened, right? That Tim Bradley beat Juan Manuel Marquez clean as a super clean whistle over 12 rounds? It was on HBO pay-per-view. No, you totally paid for it. You were kinda mad about it, but you paid for it. Or maybe you stole it, because you're a sneakthief, fashioning yourself some kind of rebel taking a stand for The Boxing Fan. But mostly you're just cheap. And living in 2013 (at the time), when this was (still is) very easy to do. I don't do it. But you probably do, since most of you can never shut up about the quality of the stream you're stealing while the sport you claim to love is being clawed to death by its "hard core" fans, who blame it all on greed and premium cable and the advent of pay-per-view some 30 years ago.
But for real, Bradley beat Marquez last year. Style-wise, it was a favorable matchup for Bradley, but beating Marquez is no easy feat, unless you're Floyd Mayweather. Nobody else has ever done it as convincingly as Bradley has, except for Floyd Mayweather.
For No. 2, I'm going with Bradley's 2009 win over Peterson, a 140-pound title bout where Bradley was just a little bit better in every single round. That was one of the best nights of Peterson's career, too, and he was blown out in terms of score totals, even if he wasn't really blown out in the fight. Scores were 10-2, 11-1, and 12-0 for Bradley, all of them perfectly defensible. It would leave you to believe that Bradley dominated, and in a way, he did, but not really. Peterson was there the whole fight, Bradley was just better than him.
Bradley's 2008 breakout win over Junior Witter gets the third spot for me. Witter was still a top fighter at 140 pounds at that time, for years lagging behind only press rival Ricky Hatton. (It's still kind of amazing that that fight never happened, though I suppose it still could.) The tricky, awkward Witter was the favorite for a lot of reasons. He was established, appeared to still be in peak shape even at 34, and had home field in Nottingham, England.
But Bradley went on the road and knocked off a defending titleholder, no easy task. Looking back, some credit is probably due to his previous fight from July 2007, a 10-round decision win over Miguel Vazquez, who would go on to win a world title at lightweight. At the time, though, Bradley was coming in with zero big fight experience, zero wins over opponents thought to be of true quality, and he took the belt from Witter.
The best fight of Bradley's career came in March 2013, when he returned from a nine-month absence following the Pacquiao controversy to face Ruslan Provodnikov. Dismissed as a nothing tune-up, it turned into the 2013 Fight of the Year. Bradley looked to prove something to everyone -- notably, The Haters -- by going toe-to-toe with a guy whose only shot was to go toe-to-toe. Provodnikov's relentless assault and power had Bradley wobbling all over the ring for a lot of the fight, but somehow, despite being pretty obviously concussed very early on, Bradley as also able to win enough of the fight with his boxing that he emerged victorious, escaping by the skin of his teeth after a 12th round knockdown.
And my No. 5 pick goes to Bradley's win over Devon Alexander, a fight still serving whipping boy purpose. Bradley and Alexander were thought by almost everyone to be the two best 140-pound fighters in the world at that point, and a portion of the audience wanted to see that fight made. So it got made. But it got made by Don King, who lazily promoted it, which did nothing to aid the fact that Bradley and Alexander, while very good fighters, were not exactly big names. Then, to put the frosting on the shit cake that was that event, King stuck the thing in the decrepit ruins of the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan, where neither Bradley nor Alexander had any sort of fan base whatsoever. And then the fight pretty much sucked, too, ending when Alexander got what appeared to be a very small cut on his eyelid. In my memory, Alexander was basically doing this:
Bradley won a technical decision when Alexander more or less quit on the fight. It wasn't a very good fight, but it was a good win for Bradley overall, and boxing writers still get to complain about it three years later. (Also, doesn't it seem like it was much longer ago than three years?)
Tim Bradley's rematch this past April with Manny Pacquiao went about like their first fight in 2012, but this time Pacquiao got the decision he had deserved the first time. The rematch took two years to come together because, well, Pacquiao saw no need to face Bradley again despite the bogus loss the first time around, and boxing fans didn't seem to want to see it, either.
Bradley has talked about the abuse and hate he took from fans after that fight. Some people dismiss that as whining, or think he's exaggerating, but as someone who observes a lot of comments on boxing web pages -- here and on social media, particularly -- I don't think he's exaggerating at all. Maybe if you're not a psychopath or a maladjusted freak whose online persona doesn't make it seem as though there's any way you could hold down a job or exist in anything approaching a civilized world, you don't get how utterly cruel and over the top people can be. But I saw a lot, and I'm sure I didn't see near the worst of it. It got ugly, and frankly a little gross.
And what for? Because Bradley didn't go to Manny's house, tears in his eyes, and return the precious WBO welterweight title belt? Because he didn't go, "Yeah, dude, I definitely lost, those judges are dumb as hell"? Because he tried to carry on with his life and career? Because he had the brazen audacity to even say, "Hey, I think I won"?
I get it if your limit is going, "Man, screw that dude, he knows he didn't win." But when you cross over into, "I HOPE HE DIES OF CANC-AIDS FROM A NUCULAR BOMB AND HIS FAMILY IS SHOT WITH POTATO GUNS ALL DAY FOREVER," you're just a goon. Tim Bradley would have taken a rematch immediately had it been offered. It was not. He never tried to avoid a Pacquiao rematch. It didn't happen because, for legitimate reasons, there was no demand. But it all really got out of hand, the way Bradley was perceived and frankly, the way he was treated by so many boxing fans.
Up Next and Beyond
Bradley will return to action on December 13, facing the horrible Diego Chaves in Las Vegas, live on HBO. Chaves, who is making his third U.S. TV appearance, has the chance to sway me back to liking him, as I did following his valiant loss to Keith Thurman in 2013. It was his August fight this year with Brandon Rios that turned me on him. That fight was horrible, and in the end, Chaves was disqualified for fighting like a damn caveman.
At 31, Timothy Bradley's career has pretty much all flown under the radar, save for the first fight with Pacquiao, and that was only even as notable as it was because the decision was so bad. When promoted by Gary Shaw, Bradley struggled to become any kind of a draw, as Shaw at the time mostly packaged fights for TV, and he had a cozy relationship with Showtime. This is not to say that Shaw didn't get Bradley good fights, or didn't get him TV exposure. But there was never a fan base built for Bradley.
How much of that is Bradley's "fault," though? At least some. He's never been the most charismatic guy. He's pretty normal, but celebrity fighter standards. He's never been a huge talker, and maybe that's part of why the backlash in recent days has been so swift against him, too. (I still think there's a line to cross no matter what trash a dude talks.) Maybe it doesn't feel genuine. I don't know. But even though he ticks a lot of boxes, Bradley just likes the "it" factor.
And it's kind of sad, too, because Tim Bradley's had a very good career and is a top of the line fighter. He's a smart boxer, but also able and willing to throw down, mixing it up with guys like Provodnikov and Pacquiao. Even his biggest win to date, a legitimate victory over a shoo-in Hall of Famer who was coming off of the biggest win of his own career, didn't seem to get the credit it deserved.
Tim Bradley's never going to be a major fan favorite. That ship has sailed. The best he can do from here is just keep fighting, just keep winning, and eventually force even the most hardline detractors to at least admit he's a hell of a good fighter. He's always been just outside the discussion, more or less, even when he's deserved to be included. It remains to be seen how much more he can really accomplish, but he's still a handful for anyone at 147, save for Mayweather or Pacquiao, and in my mind, the clear third-best fighter in the division today. Not bad when the top two are all time greats.