Timothy Bradley probably learned more about life in the three weeks following his June 9 victory over Manny Pacquiao than he had in the previous 28 years combined.
Every day, it seemed, something new, something bizarre occurred. It culminated, sadly, with a series of death threats, via the mail and the telephone.
That series of events turned what should have been an epic win and a celebratory summer into a nine-month nightmare.
The Bradley prior to June 9 was the epitome of what a father would want his daughter marrying: bright, loyal, patient, friendly, understanding and successful.
"I am the nicest guy you will ever meet on the street, ever," said Bradley, who ran a youth football league in his hometown.
Bradley did everything correctly in the days and weeks leading up to the heavily hyped bout with Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.
Pacquiao was the star going into that fight and, despite the outcome, he was the star when it ended.
Now, nine months after that split decision victory, Bradley fights for the first time.
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Rather than fighting Pacquiao, he'll fight Pacquiao's sparring partner, the virtually unknown Ruslan Provodnikov, on Saturday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., for the WBO welterweight title in a bout televised by HBO.
He's been in virtual seclusion since beating Pacquiao, no longer so eager to engage with media that has beaten him up because two people he does not know thought he'd won.
Bradley declined all manner of interview requests following what should have been the biggest win of his life. He wanted nothing to do, it seemed, with boxing.
Upon reflection, it's hard to blame him.
First, Bob Arum, his promoter, went apoplectic following the announcement of the decision. Arum wasn't alone. The overwhelming majority of those who saw the fight felt Pacquiao had won it, and handily.
The public claimed the outcome was rigged, though there were no unusual betting patterns and a Bradley win benefited few other than Bradley.
It was no secret to anyone who follows boxing that Arum would have preferred a Pacquiao win. Pacquiao was the cash cow, after all, and a Pacquiao win would have been far better for Arum's business.
Arum called for an investigation by the Nevada attorney general's office, a tactic made in an attempt to quell talk of a fix. It didn't make it easy, though, for Bradley to hear his promoter so angry railing at the injustice perpetrated upon Pacquiao and seemingly forgetting about his feelings.
Bradley then had to bear the indignity of the WBO, whose belt he had won, convening a panel of five judges to review the outcome. The determination of those judges was that the three who sat ringside had scored it wrong.
"There is a difference when you view it live and when you view it on TV," Bradley said. "Completely different."
Enduring that firestorm was the easy part.
A lunatic fringe, though, took it further than just moaning about the outcome.
Bradley knew the threats were unlikely to be carried out, and didn't report them. With a wife and young children at home, however, he couldn't be totally complacent. Anyone zany enough to threaten to kill an athlete over the result of a boxing match might be loony enough to actually do it.
"I didn't get any credit after the Pacquiao fight whatsoever," Bradley said. "People talk about me, my style, that I'm boring. Some people talk about my wife, my kids. People sent me death threats after the fight because I won undeservingly. [They said] I should have given the belt back. A lot of different things went on. I can talk all day about things that people said about me. But it doesn't matter [because] none of these people are going to get in the ring with me.
"People can say whatever they want – it is a free country – so I am going to say whatever I want, when I want to say it and how I want to say it. Those people don't know me at all. If you get to know me, if you know what I go through, how I train and you still talk crap about me, then you have the problem. No one knows what I go through to prepare for my fights. People need to sell papers I guess."
Now, Bradley needs to sell tickets for his fight, so he's once again talking to the media.
He's a thoughtful, eloquent young man, and it would have been wise had he spoken at length in the days following the Pacquiao fight and not just now, when he has another fight looming.
But the hysteria following the bout scarred him in a way that no punch has been able to do.
No matter who you felt won the fight, Bradley deserved far, far better than he's gotten in its aftermath.
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- Manny Pacquiao
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