“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.
RELATED: Has Manny Pacquiao Really Lost His Killer Instinct?
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.
Also see the documentary, “The Fire Inside: The Timothy Bradley Story,” seen below.