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Why Bradley is gun-shy

Unbeaten WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley recently said he hopes to dance his way through five more fights before hanging up his gloves without taking any chances in the ring. That means Bradley will avoid engaging an opponent or battling toe-to-toe because he’s risk-averse. How the approach will affect his marketability remains to be seen but you can be sure, fans won’t pay good money to watch the Desert Storm turn into a Summer Shower.

Bradley will take that cautious mindset into his third title defense against Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on April 12. He’ll earn $6 Million in the rematch. Although he’s the challenger, Pacquiao will pocket a guaranteed $20 Million. The disparity reflects who’s marketable and who’s not. Pacquiao brings in the fans while Bradley is just the foil in the act.

It was Pacquiao’s crown that Bradley wrested two years ago on a highly-disputed split 12-round decision. Since the dethronement, Pacquiao has lost to Juan Manuel Marquez and won over Brandon Rios. Bradley went on to barely beat Ruslan Provodnikov and outpoint a faded Marquez.

Bradley wound up looking like the loser in beating Pacquiao and appeared in the post-fight press conference in a wheelchair. He injured both his ankles during the fight. Bradley never stood still and the constant movement wore down his ankles. It’ll be more of the same in the rematch. Bradley won’t allow himself to be a standing target. If he’s within Pacquiao’s range, Bradley will be in a lot of trouble. The betting is if and when Pacquiao finds the mark with the left hook or the right cross – he isn’t choosy, Bradley is going down for good.

Bradley may be undefeated but he’s not indestructible. In 2009, WBO lightwelterweight champion Kendall Holt floored Bradley twice in their duel in Montreal. A left hook deposited Bradley on the canvas in the first round and the Desert Storm took another mandatory eight-count from a right uppercut in the 12th. To Bradley’s credit, he survived both knockdowns to win a unanimous decision. Against Provodnikov, Bradley also went down twice but referee Pat Russell ruled one a slip. Bradley would’ve lost by knockout if the fight lasted a minute longer. He admitted he was badly banged up. His face was swollen and badly bruised. Donald McRae, writing in Boxing News, said “for a long time after the fight, Bradley suffered from concussion, headaches and the shakes … he does not deny that the concussion lasted for weeks.”

Bradley confessed that it took one to two months before his head cleared up. He said his wife Monica became emotional and distressed at the sight of his condition. “She never wants to see me hurt or damaged,” said Bradley. “Money is great but health is the most important thing. Without health, you can’t love, without health, you can’t live. Money can’t buy you health like it’s a video game. So my wife worries about my health – like she should because this is a dangerous sport, it definitely has consequences later in life. So Monica wants me to take the least amount of punishment, invest my money right and get out of this game before I really get hurt.”

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Bradley has two children with Monica who has a son and a daughter from a previous relationship. He’s become an extremely conservative fighter since the Provodnikov experience because of family considerations – he wants to see his kids grow up. “I deserve at least five more fights where I can box in a strategic way, like against Marquez,” he said. “Me and Provodnikov fought a classic but I never want to go back there again.”

At this point in Bradley’s career, he’s looking for big, quick paydays so he can fatten up his bank account and leave the fight game before the beating takes a permanent toll on his body and brain. Pacquiao is worth $6 Million to Bradley and if the Desert Storm wins convincingly in the rematch, he’s eyeing a showdown with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. If ever Bradley and Mayweather meet, it’ll be the most boring fight in the history of the welterweight division. Both are defense-oriented, elusive and afraid of getting hit. The problem is who will pay for tickets to watch a boring fight?

“I believe deep in my heart that I’d beat Mayweather,” said Bradley, quoted by McRae. “They can say I’m crazy but I can match fire with fire, speed with speed. Like I showed against Marquez, I’m very elusive and hard to hit when boxing right. I can come forward and pressure as well. I can do it all. I am the only guy who can beat Floyd Mayweather. I want to fight the best in the world. I want to be the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the game and I’m not going to stop until I reach that goal. I feel in my heart and mind that I can beat all these guys. I might not get the opportunity right now but you never know how the cards will be laid out.”

Bradley said Pacquiao has lost his killer’s instinct and is now hesitant to pull the trigger. But if you put a gun on the table, Bradley will be the first to step back. There isn’t a champion who’s more gun-shy than Bradley today. He’s lost his confidence as a fighter. He’s scared of suffering permanent damage in the ring. That’s a perfect recipe for failure in boxing. Once Bradley feels Pacquiao’s power on April 12, he’ll think twice about fighting on. It’s likely Pacquiao will force Bradley into submission by the eighth round. Bradley will be too battered and too intimidated to continue. His wife Monica and their children will be on his mind from the opening bell.

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