DETROIT – Walk into the gym when Timothy Bradley is training for a fight and you may find it hard to believe that you're watching one of the best boxers in the world, because you may see Bradley in the ring, gloves on his hands, spinning in the corner, intentionally trying to get himself as dizzy as possible.
Some may see it as silliness. The undefeated Bradley and his trainer, Joel Diaz, believe it’s just preparing for every eventuality.
Had they not so faithfully practiced getting dizzy, Bradley may not be getting set to fight Devon Alexander on Saturday at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich., in the first clash of undefeated American world champions since Mike Tyson met Tony Tucker for the undisputed heavyweight title in 1987.
Bradley, the World Boxing Organization super lightweight champion, gets dizzy so that he can emulate the feeling he might experience if he were to be knocked down. He practices getting up, getting to a knee, finding his corner and listening to the count. At about seven, he’s taught to get to his feet and then to listen to the referee’s commands.
Bradley and Diaz adhere to the Boy Scouts’ motto: Be prepared. He was knocked down violently in the first-round of a super lightweight unification bout with Kendall Holt on April 4, 2009. Bradley somersaulted backward after being decked, but coolly went to a knee, let his head clear and then got back into the fight. He won the next 10 rounds en route to an easy unanimous decision.
There’s preparation, and then there’s Timothy Bradley-level preparation.
“We always prepare ourselves for the worst,” Bradley said Thursday. “We have certain spinning drills that we do. I’ll spin in a circle for like 10 or 20 seconds really fast. Then I’ll take my knee, and at seven or eight, I’ll get up. We have to be prepared for the worst. Everybody can be touched in that ring.
“Don’t let anyone fool you, (Manny) Pacquiao, (Floyd) Mayweather, anyone. Anybody can be touched in that ring, so you have to (prepare to deal with it).”
Bradley’s meticulous preparation is one of the reasons he’s ranked eighth in the Yahoo! Sports poll and why he’s on the verge of stardom.
But he’s been largely anonymous throughout his professional career, despite fighting nearly half of his career on either Showtime or HBO. As tough and hard-nosed as he is in the ring, he’s as soft-spoken and quiet outside of it.
He spent much of Thursday’s marathon news conference at the Motor City Casino sitting quietly, reading a book while promoters Don King and Gary Shaw turned the event into Chinese water torture.
Bradley had warned King while riding an elevator with him prior to the news conference that he feared it would go so long, that he would bide his time waiting to speak by reading author Gary Poole's biography of Manny Pacquiao, “Pacman.”
Bradley, 27, wasn’t introduced until more than 90 minutes after the news conference had begun. Pacquiao, he said, is one of his idols and he read the story of the Filipino superstar’s life while the news conference dragged on.
“I’ve been there before when Don King is here and he takes about two to three hours, so I was like, 'I'm going to bring a book, man, or else I'm going to fall asleep on stage,’ ” Bradley said.
It was yet another example of preparing for every eventuality. Diaz said Bradley has always been meticulous and anxious to plan and prepare. He’s worked on improving his punching power, which isn’t overwhelming.
Bradley is one of those fighters whose opponents feel every punch long after the bout is over, but he’s not a guy to knock one down or out with a single punch or even a single combination.
If there is something he perceives as a weakness, though, Diaz doesn’t have to encourage to work on it.
“The thing about him is, he regards the gym as his place of business and when he gets in there, he’s there to work and do his job,” Diaz said. “He really has this attitude that he wants to be a little better tomorrow than he was today and he brings that with him every day. He’s always working and pushing himself to get things exactly right.”
That work ethic has allowed him to face an exceptional class of opponents. From his earliest days, Bradley was fighting opponents who were highly regarded and were often more experienced.
He’s rarely had it easy, but he’s never complained and he’s never ducked anyone.
“He’s fought tough guy after tough guy,” his manager, Cameron Dunkin, said. “He hasn’t gotten any breaks.”
But facing the kind of opposition he did has helped turn him into one of the game’s most anonymous stars. And Bradley is convinced it will be the difference against Alexander, whom he respects greatly but doesn’t believe has met the same caliber of opposition.
Alexander, he said, has flaws that have yet to be exploited. He was somewhat surprised when Alexander’s side accepted the fight because he didn’t believe Alexander, 23, was ready for it.
“You’ll see why Saturday after I destroy Devon,” he said. “It’s too early for him. He’s just 23. He’s going to be a great fighter, but I’m seasoned. I’m in my prime. This is my time. This is my destiny.”
And if he gets past Alexander on Saturday, he’ll immediately be a potential opponent not only for the likes of World Boxing Association super lightweight champion, but superstars such as Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.
He’s on the precipice of greatness. If he gets there, he’ll owe a debt of gratitude to Diaz for making him spin until the floor wouldn’t stop moving.