Not until he finished his 30th fight with wobbly legs and glassy eyes Saturday night, barely staying upright to the final bell against Ruslan Provodnikov.
A classy boxer became a raw fighter for one thrilling bout. Once Bradley heals, he could reap the benefits for years.
“The warrior instinct started to come in,” Bradley said in the ring, after guessing he had a concussion. “Just heart and determination, the will to win. Even though I got rocked, I still fight hard. I still come back. That’s just the warrior in me.”
Bruised and bloody, Bradley (30-0) narrowly kept his perfect record and his WBO welterweight belt, winning a unanimous decision by a tiny margin despite being on the verge of getting stopped in the first, second and 12th rounds, even taking a knee in the waning seconds.
Yet the crowd at the outdoor tennis stadium south of Los Angeles roared through chattering teeth for both fighters, cheering and booing Bradley with a passion he has rarely inspired in the ring.
After the most exciting performance of his career, Bradley is likely to receive much of the love he was denied after his unconvincing decision over Manny Pacquiao last year. Bradley also made himself exponentially more attractive for a rematch with Pacquiao if a fifth fight with Juan Manuel Marquez falls apart over money disputes.
“Any time you plan something right after a fight, you screw up,” Arum said. “There are plenty of fights to do.”
Marquez and Pacquiao both haven’t announced their next bouts, but Marquez is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks. Bradley has been a nightmare matchup for any big name in recent years because of his meager fame and low action potential, but his win over Provodnikov can’t help altering his image for the better.
Freddie Roach, who trains both Pacquiao and Provodnikov, has scoffed at the idea Pacquiao would grant a rematch to Bradley in the past, saying Bradley can’t sell a ticket and pointing at the first fight’s unimpressive pay-per-view performance. With highlights from Bradley’s win over Provodnikov on the ads for his next bout, it’s tough to imagine Bradley would be an unattractive draw any more.
Roach even complimented Bradley _ whose trainer, Joel Diaz, ripped Roach before the fight.
“He’s a very tough guy,” Roach said. “He’s a very good boxer. He’s everything he’s supposed to be. He fought a great fight also.”
Although the fight was close, with the three fighters separated by a total of five points on the three scorecards combined, the judges saw the fight nearly identically.
All three agreed on Provodnikov’s victory in the first, second and sixth rounds, while giving the rest of the first 10 rounds to Bradley. Two judges gave the 11th to Provodnikov, while Raul Caiz Sr. favored Bradley. All three scored the 12th for Provodnikov 10-8, leaving the Russian agonizingly short of a decision.