LAS VEGAS – Timothy Bradley can't get lucky. On the night of arguably the greatest victory of his career, he got dogged by more doubters.
Bradley kept a pre-fight promise to his wife, Monica, and chose not to get into a toe-to-toe slugfest with Juan Manuel Marquez. Bradley was disciplined, skilled and dictated the terms throughout.
The judges rewarded him with a split-decision victory, but Marquez and Hall of Fame trainer Ignacio Beristain cried foul. After the fight, Marquez said "I need to be scared of the judges more than my opponent," when fighting in Las Vegas.
Beristain was even more sharp-tongued.
"Tim Bradley is the only undefeated fighter who has two losses," Beristain said, referring to Bradley's bout with Manny Pacquiao and Marquez.
Bradley grimaced as he listened to them speak, but he tried to remain positive.
He had great reason to do so, as he boxed expertly from beginning to end and seemed to land the harder blows. Though Marquez was stalking and pressing the fight, Bradley hurt the future Hall of Famer in the 10th and the 12th rounds and never allowed Marquez to turn it into a brawl.
Bradley's instinct, as he showed in a March victory over Ruslan Provodnikov, is to slug when attacked. This time, though, he used a strong jab, lateral movement and speed to keep Marquez off-balance.
"Boxing is a sport where the goal is to hit and not get hit, and Marquez couldn't hit him," Bradley trainer Joel Diaz said.
That wasn't quite true as Bradley had only a 15-punch edge in landed blows. It wasn't the number of punches, but the way they were thrown that made the difference.
Bradley blocked many of Marquez's shots, slipping and sliding out of trouble on the inside and using his gloves to block punches thrown from a distance.
In many rounds, Marquez appeared frustrated that he couldn't corner Bradley and get him to exchange. That happened for brief moments at the end of a few rounds, but for the most part, Bradley kept his wife's words in mind.
Don't brawl, she repeatedly urged him. He listened, even though he admitted there were times he wanted to do otherwise.
"It was hard, man, because I like to fight," Bradley said. "But I just had to listen to the corner."
[Related: Strategy pays off for Timothy Bradley in split-decision win]
The jab was a major part of his repertoire on this night. He threw 337 jabs, landing 82, and only 225 power shots. He desperately wanted the victory over Marquez, whom he repeatedly called the best opponent he'd faced in the pre-fight build-up, in part to erase the bad feeling he had following his controversial win over Pacquiao last year.
In that fight, the vast majority of people who saw it – boxing people, media and fight fans – felt Pacquiao won going away, even though Bradley won a split decision. The Pacquiao fans were brutal to Bradley and, for a while, turned him into a recluse.
He beat Provodnikov in March in the kind of fight that he loves, but that bothers his family. He sustained a serious concussion in that fight and was out four months with no activity.
He vowed to be smarter against Marquez, who had dramatically knocked Pacquiao out in December.
By beating Marquez, Bradley believes he elevated his odds for the Hall of Fame.
"That win is my ticket to the Boxing Hall of Fame," Bradley said. "I beat a great champion. I jabbed over and over. He couldn't touch me. I gave him a boxing lesson."
There was drama, though, when ring announcer Michael Buffer announced judge Glen Feldman's card first. Feldman had it 115-113 for Marquez, giving Marquez four of the final five rounds.
But judges Robert Hoyle (115-113) and Patricia Morse-Jarman (116-112) saw it Bradley's way. Yahoo Sports scored it 116-112 for Bradley.
Marquez didn't take questions, though he did stop briefly at the post-fight news conference.
He wasn't gracious, to say the least.
"We came prepared to give a great fight," said Marquez, who was gunning for a world title in his fifth weight class. "I think the people came and saw a good performance, but unfortunately, the judges did it again.
"To be fighting in Vegas, I need to knock the people out to get a victory. That's what has been happening here. I need to be scared of the judges more than my opponents."
Bradley was clearly disappointed by Marquez's words. The two had showed extraordinary respect for each other throughout the promotion, and Bradley felt Marquez would show it to him at the post-fight news conference.
Instead of congratulating Bradley and vindicating his victory, Marquez blasted him. Bradley visibly sagged when Marquez said that, though asked about it later, he smiled and said, "There was no grimace."
He beamed upon learning that a large segment of the ringside media had scored it for him.
"I feel I'm finally going to get my just due," said Bradley, who is now 31-0. "I feel I'm definitely one of the best fighters in the world. The fact that everybody thought I won the fight, that's fantastic."
Bradley may turn out to be one of those great boxers who is always overshadowed by bigger names. Guys like Pacquiao, Marquez and Floyd Mayweather have cast a vast shadow over Bradley.
It's similar to what happened to Wilfred Benitez, when he fought in the 1980s in an era dominated by Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran and Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
But Bradley clearly has established himself as one of the sport's best, whether Marquez, Beristain or a few in the media refuse to recognize.
"It's too bad that the kid fought so great and can't get any credit, but we'll just keep beating them and sooner or later, the respect and the recognition will come for him," Bradley trainer Joel Diaz said.
Bradley just smiled.
"If I get respect, great, but if I don't, keep betting against me," Bradley said. "I'm just going to keep on winning."