For Timothy Bradley, it’s all about perspective.
The 30-year-old WBO welterweight champion is unbeaten as a professional, and on Saturday night, he’ll make the third defense of his title, facing former champion Manny Pacquiao in a rematch of their highly controversial first bout.
Bradley received a ton of flak for getting a decision that most felt didn't reflect the action in the ring. The criticism obviously affected him, but through it all, he kept his eyes on the prize.
And the prize isn’t perfection, it’s greatness.
“A lot of guys that are legendary have losses on their records, but they fought the best fighters in the world. And that’s what’s important to me,” Bradley said.
“I want to be one of the best fighters in the world. I want to fight the best out there, because I want to be the number one fighter in the world.”
Bradley currently finds himself ranked as the No. 3 pound-for-pound fighter in the world by both The Ring Magazine and ESPN.com. Coming into his fight with Pacquiao on Saturday night, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that he isn’t at least giving himself a chance to be great.
Three of his last four fights have been against opponents also ranked within the top 10 of the pound-for-pound list, and the one that wasn’t came against Ruslan Provodnikov, a lethal power puncher who went on to win a world title in his next fight.
Fighting the best, what Bradley says time and time again he wants to do, carries with it risks of defeat. At this level of boxing, every opponent can beat you. But the “Desert Storm” says that’s not something that worries him in the least.
“Being unbeaten is a great accomplishment. But it’s not everything in boxing honestly. I feel that fighting the best fights and giving the fans what they want to see is the best thing for you and your career,” Bradley said.
“At the end of the day, eh. My [zero] eh. It don’t really mean nothing to me man. It’s just there. I’ve beaten everybody they’ve put in front of me. I want to fight the best.”
The overwhelming consensus—at least outside two of the three judges charged with officially scoring the fight—was that Bradley’s zero should’ve disappeared on June 9, 2012.
Bradley put up a spirited performance, all the more so when you consider he did it on two badly injured legs, but Pacquiao seemed to land the harder, cleaner shots throughout the fight.
What resulted from the verdict rendered by judges Duane Ford and C.J. Ross—both who have since stepped down—was in effect, a nullification of the result by the boxing world at large.
Virtually nobody gave Bradley any sort of credit for the win, and that’s why—even though he maintains to this day that the verdict was correct—he feels that ultimately, yes, he did lose the fight.
“Everybody was like you didn’t win. Even though I won the fight, I wasn’t the one judging the fight. And they were right that I didn’t win the fight. I didn’t win. I didn’t get any credit. I didn’t win the fight,” Bradley said.
But he feels that this time around, he’ll leave no question in the minds of anyone.
“I want the credit from the fans. I want the credit from the world. I want the credit from boxing for beating this guy. I’m going to beat him decisively this time. No questions asked.”
If Bradley does indeed beat Pacquiao decisively this time around, no questions asked as he said, you’d be able to make a solid case for him being the second-best fighter in the world.
Andre Ward hasn’t been active enough in recent times to warrant his continued grasp on that spot, and with two wins over Pacquiao and victories over Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez, Bradley definitely has the credentials to leapfrog him into that position.
That would immediately lead to speculation—perhaps not at the same level that Pacquiao generated in recent years but still significant—about a superfight with the man who currently occupies the top spot, pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather.
Bradley understands this better than anyone, but he refuses to be pulled into the endless loop of speculation that isn’t likely to go anywhere. He wants the fight, but he’s not going to rest on his laurels waiting for it to happen.
“It’s not how badly I want to fight Mayweather, because Mayweather already knows I’ll fight him any day, any time, any place, any where. It’s how bad Mayweather wants to fight me,” Bradley said.
“Whether I fight him or not my career’s going to go on. My legacy’s going to keep on building.”
The fight is likely a nonstarter, and for that, you can only blame the current political environment of the sport.
Bradley fights on HBO under the Top Rank banner. Mayweather fights on Showtime under his own promotional company—Mayweather Promotions—but has had a longstanding working relationship with Golden Boy Promotions.
Top Rank and Golden Boy are like the oil and water of the boxing world, and that alone will likely keep the fight from happening.
But Bradley isn’t worried. Mayweather or not, his goal remains the same.
“At the end of the day, Mayweather’s his own boss. If he wants to come see me he can come see me,” Bradley said.
“He’s his own boss. He’s said that over and over and over. If he wants the fight to happen then so be it. Like I said, I’ll never shy away from the best.”
Kevin McRae is a featured boxing columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.