It is amazing what a couple of fights can do for a fighter’s reputation, but the important thing to take away is that those fights have to be accompanied by specifically spectacular performances. Such is the case with Timothy Bradley, who just last night defeated Mexican superstar Juan Manuel Marquez in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Looking at the chronology of Timothy Bradley’s career it is easy to see he has come a long way and has done a lot to change the perception of himself in the last few years. There has been a ton of criticism aimed at Bradley and I am guilty of scrutinizing the reigning WBO welterweight champion.
It started with the Devon Alexander fight, which was just atrocious to watch. What was supposed to be the second best fight that could be made in the sport turned out to be one of the dullest affairs fight fans could conceive of and instead of being a defining moment for Bradley it was riddled with ifs and buts.
However, even knowing that it takes two fighters to produce a bad fight we can look at both Alexander’s and Bradley’s performances after they met and it can be argued that Alexander was the style wrench in that matchup that deserves the lion’s share of the blame.
Then, when yet another opportunity to take on the very best in the division presented itself Bradley moved out of the junior welterweight division and avoided Amir Khan at what seemed like great lengths. Instead, Bradley sat out for 11 months and fought faded veteran Joel Casamayor.
With developments through time we can safely say that Bradley didn’t need that fight and it can be argued he would’ve won, at least based on what each fighter has done since then. In fact, it is kind of silly even mentioning it with what has proceeded since then and up until last night.
Finally, we come to the Pacquiao fight. This fight was the basis for many of Bradley’s decisions in the preceding years as well as his fight with Alexander and his non-fight with Khan. Basically, Bradley needed a meaningful fight to put himself in both HBO’s good graces and Pacquiao’s radar, while deciding against taking the Khan fight is directly linked to the likelihood of landing his biggest career payday against Pacquiao.
We all know what happened with the Pacquiao fight, for better or for worse no one, especially Bradley, will forget it. It was a letdown performance turned in by Bradley, but it was an even bigger catastrophe on the judges’ part. The judges were solely to blame, but for some reason Bradley received much of the blame. Fans couldn’t get passed it and I was just as narrow-minded as the rest of them. The bad taste in the mouth of fans was echoed for months.
So after Alexander, Khan, and Pacquiao, it wasn’t a surprise to see Bradley blasted by fans and media on forums, columns, articles and podcasts. At the height of his career Bradley was receiving death threats and entered a state of depression. It seemed as though there was little he could do to change the perceptions of the people and his fan base was as bleak as it gets for a pound for pound caliber fighter.
So in his darkest moment Bradley decided to take a fight with a hardnosed “ESPN” fighter in Ruslan Provodnikov. Most felt like Bradley was taking the easy route and no one gave Provodnikov a shot, even worse it seemed like a victory for Bradley would result in very little credit. This was a fight with very little to gain and plenty to lose for the “Desert Storm.”
But in the midst of all the negativity these two fighters turned out “Fight of the Year” type performances. The fight had it all including some 12th round heroics, but it was exactly the kind of performance that Bradley needed to show fans that he had heart. Not heart in terms of a warrior because Bradley is a beast in the gym and in that respect he has plenty of heart, although if you needed to see that heart on display then the fight with Provodnikov was a prime example. But when I say Bradley needed to show some heart, I mean that he needed to show fans that he was capable of giving them what they want in the ring and that is pure entertainment. He needed to show he had love for the sport and he did that when he decided to stand and trade with a fighter that he could’ve simply out boxed.
Bradley fought in a way that showed his heart for the sport was as strong as ever and he proved that he could use the negativity from the Pacquiao fight as positive fuel for his future in-ring endeavors.
Still, he did go life and death with a fighter that was less than elite.
Now we look at the events that took place Saturday night and Bradley should’ve proved to everyone with this win that he is as credible a fighter there is. He beat one of the best fighters in the world coming off of “knockout of the century” momentum. Bradley performed beautifully and displayed incredible physical talents as well as a superb boxing IQ. But he also won the firefights; in those moments when both fighters stood in front of one another exchanging, it was Bradley that came away the winner. Marquez has been in some legendary firefights himself, but it was the younger, better fighter in Bradley that willed his way and dug deep.
Bradley deserves everyone’s respect for what he’s done this year. He beat a far less superior fighter in an entertaining fashion and then he beat a world-class fighter in a closely fought contest. Bradley has shed all of the criticism in my eyes and whoever’s respect he hasn’t earned by now is probably not worth having.