You go into a war, you’re probably going to coming out with battle scars — if not physical then certainly emotional.
Timothy Bradley survived a 12-round war with Ruslan Provodnikov on March 16. But he paid a price as he had balance issues and slurred speech in the aftermath of the fight. The neurologists he visited in New York told him to stay out of the gym for four months and not to engage in any physical activity. Questions swirled as to whether Bradley should be allowed to fight again. Some observers said he should retire.
But Bradley eventually was cleared to return to the ring. On Saturday, he defends his WBO welterweight title against future Hall of Famer Juan Manuel Marquez at the Thomas &Mack Center. Doctors cleared him of short-term risk, and Bradley said he’s not looking 10 to 20 years ahead at the fight’s potential effects on his life after he’s through with boxing.
“Right now, I’m not thinking about that,” the 30-year-old Bradley said Tuesday upon his arrival at Wynn Las Vegas. Saturday’s Top Rank fight card, which has Bradley headlining, will be televised by HBO Pay Per View. “But it was scary what I went through after the Ruslan fight. I’ve never been through anything like it. That’s why I went and sought the help I needed.”
Bradley (30-0, 12 knockouts), who beat Manny Pacquiao on June 9, 2012, at the MGM Grand Garden in a controversial 12-round split decision to win the WBO title, said if it wasn’t safe for him to fight the 40-year-old Marquez (55-6-1, 40 KOs), he wouldn’t do it.
“I’m 100 percent better from when I first came back to the gym,” Bradley said. “I’m on weight. I feel great. Everything is better.
“When I fought Ruslan, I took the fight on short notice, and I was having weight issues. I had to lose a ton of weight in a short amount of time, and I came into that fight severely dehydrated. That’s not the case for this fight.”
Bradley said his performance against Provodnikov earned him newfound respect from the boxing world.
“I was shown a lot of love from the fans,” he said. “Even people who didn’t like me told me how much they respected me for what I did and that they like me now.”
Bradley wants other boxers to be aware of the medical assistance that’s available to them. He plans to take part in the ongoing neurological study being performed on fighters by Las Vegas neurologist Dr. Charley Bernick at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
“I’m there,” Bradley said. “A lot of fighters go through what I went through, and I just want them to know there’s help out there for them and I want them to take advantage of it.”
Joel Diaz, Bradley’s longtime trainer, said at first, he was concerned that his fighter wasn’t his usual self. But with each day and week, he saw improvement, and that convinced him to allow the fight to take place with Marquez, who is looking to be the first fighter from Mexico to win world titles in five weight classes.
“His equilibrium wasn’t there at first, but he was still losing weight and getting into shape,” Diaz said. “But with time he was getting better, and once he got into shape, everything started to fall into place.
“The big test was when he started sparring. He got hit pretty good, and his reactions were very normal and very sharp.”
Among those Bradley sparred with was Lucas Matthysse, who took world junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia the distance last month at the MGM Grand Garden.
“It was great,” Bradley said of working with the hard-hitting Matthysse. “It helped put any fears I had to rest.”
Bradley said he’s willing to throw down with Marquez if that’s what it takes to win. But he’s not sure if it will be a 12-round brawl.
“The main thing for me in this fight is to stay smart and use my head,” Bradley said. “This guy’s smart. He’s the best guy I’ve ever fought. He knows every aspect of the ring.
“I can’t promise it’ll be a barnburner like the Ruslan fight. But I’m not afraid to dig down deep in the trenches if that’s what it’s going to take to beat Marquez.”
For Bradley, the future and his long-term health can wait. On Saturday, there’s work to be done.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.