It's been a long road for Timothy Bradley. His win against Devon Alexander was supposed to vault him into stardom, but the public largely failed to take notice of the event and the lackluster, sloppy fight which resulted. Following that, Bradley took a ton of heat for turning down a seven-figure payday for a potential match against Amir Khan last summer. What nobody knew was that fighting Khan was never part of Bradley's master plan: to move up to Welterweight and land a fight against either Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather as quickly as possible.
With the Pacquiao fight coming to fruition, fans could see the method of what they had thought was madness, and Bradley knows he and his team made a wise decision for his career.
"It means that we made the right moves," Bradley said. "We set ourselves up right. It means that I get my opportunity, and now I say to myself, 'What you gonna do now Bradley? Here it is. Let's go out here and take care of business, let's shock the world.'"
Basking in the Spotlight
Not only does Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs) get to go up against Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) and try to shock the world, he finally gets to introduce himself to the world at large on boxing's biggest stage. The Pacquiao-Bradley pay-per-view has gotten the multiple-episode 24/7 series treatment from HBO, and more coverage than all of Bradley's previous fights possibly could have mustered.
Surely, it would be a difficult adjustment to make, suddenly being thrust into the spotlight, having television crews in your home filming you and your family, watching yourself on television.
Not for Bradley. Remember, he's been planning for this. He's been fighting professionally since 2004, and as an amateur for a decade before that. Finally, this is his time.
When asked how it was to watch the first episode of 24/7, he didn't shy away from how he really felt.
"I think it's great man," Bradley said. "It's unbelievable just to see myself on there and just being me. It's just me, there's no gimmicks, just me being me. I'm happy that a lot of people have been able to accept me for me, and I enjoyed the show."
When you face a superstar like Mayweather or Pacquiao, and when you want the kind of glory, fame and money they have, then you have to step into their world of constant media attention. Bradley understands that better than anyone, and lifestyle change or not, he's basking in the spotlight that he's long craved.
"Well, it comes with the business man, it comes with the territory," Bradley said. "It's a huge mega fight, and without the media, nobody would know about it. ... It's how you become a superstar. I just try to deal with it, and it's not a problem for me."
Here he is, center stage, all eyes on him. So what's the next phase of Bradley's master plan?
Incredibly, Bradley, who turns 29 in August, wants to retire at the age of 30.
So how is it that somebody who so relishes the spotlight he sought for so long, is ready to relinquish it all so quickly?
Bradley and His Family
For Timothy Bradley, it all comes down to his family.
"Family is the most important thing on this earth. Without my family man, I'm nothing," he said.
Bradley loves boxing, and he loves to fight, but, at the end of the day, boxing is a paycheck and a means to an end.
"I fight for them and their well-being. I don't want them to have to struggle," Bradley said. "I want to be able to pay for my kids' college, and buy their first car, and do all of those things that parents wish they can do for their children. It's my job to fight and fight for them, so I'm just doing what daddy is supposed to do and taking care of them."
When he says that he fights for his family, and you can hear the dedication and love he has for them, maybe it's not as much of a surprise then to learn that he has an exit strategy.
Bradley doesn't mince words about the sport that he loves, the one that he has been a part of for nearly his whole life, the one that is inexorably linked to who he is as a person, and the consequences that it brings.
"I don't want to leave this business all jacked up man," Bradley said. "Honestly. I love to fight, I love what I do. I just want to leave with some brains left."
Shocking the World
Bradley has a unique opportunity in front of him, one that he calls the start of a new journey. "It's a new beginning for my family, winning this fight would change our lives forever. I'm ready for it," he said.
Ideally, he would retire at the young age of 30 after defeating Pacquiao, facing him again in a rematch, taking on Floyd Mawyeather, and defeating him twice, too.
Lofty? Certainly. Crazy? Maybe.
Bradley has never lost a fight before, and he's made a career of proving the critics wrong. He's an undefeated top-10 pound-for-pound fighter and the recognized best fighter in his division, with the strength and physical presence, not to mention dogged determination and grit, to step into the ring with Pacquiao. And win.
He's certainly confident that he'll get the job done.
"I just see my hands being raised at the end of the night baby! I'm not one to go into particulars or say I'm going to knock him out or do this or do that," he said. "I just know I'm going to win by any means necessary. I'm going to get the victory. That's what I think for every single fight. I'm going to get that win man."
Still, he knows he's a big underdog, and he acknowledges that it's fair, given Pacquiao's status as one of the top two fighters in the world. "It's my job to prove them all wrong ... he's a superstar in the game, so it should be that way," Bradley said.
Being cast aside won't stand in his way, and he has a warning for any fan who dares not watch the fight on those grounds: They could miss out on witnessing a huge surprise and a historical upset.
Bradley remembers that Muhammad Ali did it to Sonny Liston. That Buster Douglas did it to Mike Tyson. And now, he's sure. "Tim Bradley's going to do it against Pacquiao," he said.
"You know why? You got a young, hungry, determined fighter, who trains like an animal, fights like an animal, who brings the pain, man."
Believe him yet? You'll have to see for yourself on June 9.
Sources: Interview with ProBoxing-Fans.com
Jake Emen runs the boxing news website ProBoxing-Fans.com. You can find more of his writing, along with interviews, rankings and breaking news stories at the site, or you can follow ProBoxing-Fans.com on Twitter, @ProBoxingFans.