COMMENTARY | When Timothy Bradley signed with Top Rank, the idea was to parlay a title shot against Manny Pacquiao into next-level fame and a full career of bouts with any number of top welterweights and junior welterweights. Since the Filipino phenom only fights in-house opponents these days, it was a must that Bradley sign over his career (or at least a good chunk of it) to Bob Arum.
It appeared to be a safe move to make since a ring appearance with Pacquiao, even in defeat, brought a boost in marketability to Juan Manuel Marquez, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, and even a buzz-less second tier paper champ like Joshua Clottey.
Bradley, while obviously hoping to win, had to know that a solid loss could set up big-money fights with the likes of Marquez, Brandon Rios, or any number of Top Rank fighters in the 140- to 154-pound range. And even if major fights came along slowly, he'd still be able to exploit his powerful connections to stay within an arm's reach of a world title shot.
However, Bradley's dream turned into a nightmare thanks to two awful judges, a faux-outraged Bob Arum, and an utterly disinterested Manny Pacquiao.
On June 9, the Palm Springs native won a highly-controversial split decision against the eight-division world champ and took possession of the WBO welterweight title. In the ensuing controversy, Bradley somehow found himself shoved into a proverbial corner and treated as persona non grata by everyone else associated with the bout.
Most reasonable observers saw a robbery that night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, but even the most vocal of critics had to acknowledge Bradley's effort and, surely, had to recognize that he was in no way responsible for the putrid decision issued in his favor. Bradley and his team didn't do themselves any favors by stubbornly insisting that the decision was justified, but what was anyone expecting from a proud fighter? Most boxers and their people are slanted toward their own interests and it's definitely understandable how they would argue that Bradley had done enough to win.
But, despite the understanding that Bradley was not responsible for any of the controversy of the night, he still gets the full blunt of attacks from fans looking to express their outrage.
More damaging, though, is that Bradley's own promoter seems to be distancing himself from the fighter he worked to lure over to his stable just months earlier. From the looks of things, Arum has not worked very hard to get Bradley a fight and doesn't seem too interested in getting him in the ring any time soon. The best deal to come Bradley's way was an unconfirmed offer to take on Lamont Peterson, a guy he beat two years earlier via unanimous decision. Needless to say, Bradley declined the fight before it even became a legitimate, on-the-table offer.
The best route of return for Bradley was via a rematch with Pacquiao, but the Filipino pop culture icon also gave Bradley the cold shoulder by opting for a fourth bout with Marquez rather than a second go-round with him.
Most boxing people, this writer included, incorrectly felt that the urge to right a wrong would be too great for Pacquiao and that he would exercise his rematch option for a shot at revenge and redemption.
Prior to the official announcement of Pacquiao-Marquez IV, Bradley launched a public-relations blitz aimed at goading Pacquiao into the rematch. But, despite being called a chicken and an embarrassment by the usually respectful Bradley, Pacquiao kept the deep freeze going and went ahead with plans for the Marquez bout.
Now, Bradley is without a fight and without any real options at the moment. A February date has been tentatively selected for his return, but no opponent has been named and when/if one is named, it won't likely be a major, big-ticket star.
While being made to pay for the bad decision and subsequent comments he made about Arum's honesty and Pacquiao's bravery, Bradley will continue to be the odd man out -- and he'll stay in that spot until Arum, Pacquiao and company need him to be the fall guy once again.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.