There’s little doubt that Timothy Bradley’s got a lot going for him.
He’s a decent guy and a good interview. He goes to great lengths to stay grounded in spite of the fame and fortune he’s compiled. And as far as his full-time job goes, he’s long been a high-achiever, as three championship belts across two weight classes accurately attest.
In fact, even though most people suggest his biggest career accomplishment—a split-decision nod over Manny Pacquiao to win the WBO welterweight title in 2012—was a miscarriage of judging at its most egregious level, you’d be hard-pressed to find a real critic of him as a man or a fighter.
But he’s not exactly a drawing card.
It’s true that in one significant match on a pay-per-view level—against Pacquiao late last spring in Las Vegas—Bradley helped attract 900,000 buys as a significant underdog, but it’s a safe bet that the huge majority of those tuning in were doing so to see the Filipino and not the Californian.
In his lone outing since the verdict that was voted 2012’s worst decision, Bradley was back on HBO and barely escaped with both belt and his consciousness following an unexpectedly difficult 12-round dance against career 140-pounder Ruslan Provodnikov.
The unheralded Russian roughed the champion up all night long, dropped him in the final round and came within a few eyelashes—he lost a unanimous decision by scores of 114-113, 114-113 and 115-112—of derailing one of Top Rank’s most recognizable trains.
Still, a punishing night might have been just what Bradley needed.
Unlike fights at junior welterweight against Edner Cherry (UD 12), Lamont Peterson (UD 12) and Devon Alexander (TD 10) that yielded 34 rounds of collective indifference from fans, the struggle with Provodnikov has rebranded Bradley as a gritty action type ahead of his next chance at PPV magnetism.
That opportunity comes back in Vegas on Oct. 12, when he’ll meet a fellow Pacquiao slayer in Juan Manuel Marquez while making defense No. 2 of the crown he purloined from the Filipino.
And, if past is prescient, Bradley might need to do some heavy lifting.
The Mexican will be 40 years old on fight night and hasn’t reappeared since laying the former pound-for-pound king out with a single right hand in December. He’d ridden shotgun to Pacquiao in three previous fights—one on regular HBO and two on its PPV apparatus—and also did big numbers opposite Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a one-sided catchweight encounter in 2009.
But in the few occasions where he’s been the main draw, it hasn’t gone quite so well. The 11th-round TKO of Joel Casamayor in 2008 had prompted fewer than 100,000 purchases going in, while a rematch with Juan Diaz three fights later in 2010 landed somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000.
On its surface then, this is two recognizable names and inarguably talented fighters—neither of whom has proven real mettle as a high six-figure property unless augmented higher up on the marquee by a more proven commodity. What it does have going for it, though, is momentum.
Marquez’s stock has risen exponentially since he cold-cocked Pacquiao, and, as referenced earlier, those with short memories will only recall Bradley as a Gatti-mold warrior and not the aggression-averse counterpuncher that he’s regularly played while scoring just 12 KOs in 30 wins.
Should he defeat the four-time Manny foil and look good, interesting or merely OK in doing so, the man nicknamed “Desert Storm” automatically becomes a much-larger asset in Bob Arum’s portfolio, which would logically yield a Pacquiao rematch and a real shot at a seven-figure buy rate, assuming Brandon Rios doesn’t smudge the ink in China come November.
If he loses, the closest he’ll get to a PPV is an undercard bout or a ringside seat.