Timothy Bradley is the WBO welterweight champion. He's 30-0 with abs that look like he does Insanity and P90X—at the same time. Even with all those qualities, the man they call Desert Storm isn't widely regarded as one of the five-best fighters in the sport.
On Saturday, Bradley will have an opportunity to earn some respect when he faces Juan Manuel Marquez at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
BoxRec.com lists Bradley seventh in their pound-for-pound rankings. He's behind fighters who have had their records blemished like Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, Wladimir Klitschko, Sergio Martinez and Carl Froch.
Ring Magazine has Bradley listed eighth. The most notable fighter ahead of Bradley on Ring's list is Manny Pacquiao.
The Filipino legend is sixth in the rankings despite losing a split decision to Bradley in June 2012 and being knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez in December. The win over Pacquiao earned Bradley the WBO title, but in many ways, it was more of a loss than a victory.
I'm one of a handful of boxing pundits who actually scored the bout for Bradley. Still, I'm in the vast minority.
Because most believe Bradley deserved to lose the decision against Pacquiao, he has been the target of tons of disrespect within the boxing community. For Bradley, proving he deserves his success has been even more difficult than attaining it.
In his last bout, Bradley engaged in an ill-advised brawl with tough, but under-skilled Russian Ruslan Provodnikov. Bradley won by a close unanimous decision, but he could have made this fight much easier than it was.
It was his first fight since he defeated Pacquiao. He and his family had been ridiculed and threatened in unfortunate events in the months after the bout, per Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports. Bradley clearly wanted to prove a point and take out his frustrations on Provodnikov.
Slugging with the challenger nearly got Bradley knocked out. He was wobbled badly twice and knocked down in the 12th round. Fortunately, he had out-boxed Provodnikov in almost every round he wasn't hurt.
While this show of toughness and grit may have earned him some respect as a rugged fighter, it didn't do much for his standing as an elite performer. His spot on the aforementioned pound-for-pound lists is evidence of that.
If Bradley wants to be regarded as one of the sport's best fighters and not just a man many believe was gifted a title, he needs to beat Marquez on Saturday.
The Mexican legend is 40 years old, but he's in great shape, and he's coming off the huge win over Pacquiao. His stock is high and beating him—even at an advanced age—would say a lot for Bradley. It is unfair that Desert Storm's reputation has taken a hit over the past 16 months, but we all know boxing can be iniquitous.
For Bradley, rising above the hate is as simple—yet difficult—as having his hand raised against Marquez. The latter is a world-class opponent for sure. If Bradley emerges victorious, he will have earned the same distinction from the masses and not just a handful of unofficial judges.
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