Tim Bradley started 2013 as a pariah. He emerges from it triumphant.
The Queensberry Rules’ Fighter of the Year beat out Floyd Mayweather for the honour, the biggest attraction and best boxer in the sport, and a tier of men who made their names in 2013: Danny Garcia, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Adonis Stevenson. And he did it all despite only fighting twice. His award honours don’t end there: He was one part of our Fight of the Year, along with Ruslan Provodnikov, in a bout that also produced a strong contender for Round of the Year. I suppose this is the point where I should mention that he also beat Juan Manuel Marquez, a consensus top-five pound-for-pound fighter coming off a stunning knockout victory of Manny Pacquiao — the same man whom Bradley had became a pariah by beating in 2012 to the scorn of those who disputed the judges’ official verdict.
There’s little I can say about Bradley’s victory over Provodnikov that hasn’t already been expressed. It was brutal. It was jaw-droppingly stupid on Bradley’s part. It was awesome. It did more than restore Bradley’s reputation — it forged him a new one as must-see TV. And Provodnikov’s subsequent demolition job on Mike Alvarado made the razor-thin win seem like even more of an achievement.
Bradley’s upset of Marquez in October did the rest. Much as Bradley beat Provodnikov in the kind of war he prefers, Bradley beat Marquez at his own game. He neutralised Marquez’s vaunted counterpunching and made the Mexican look ponderous. Marquez, a former accountant, is one of the most cerebral men in boxing, but Bradley out-thought and out-fought him. He made Marquez miss, peppered and discouraged him with an educated jab and eventually earned the close decision. Nobody on our list of candidates added a name of Marquez’s stature to their CV this year.
In the process, he showed yet again that he improves from fight to fight (when he’s not being ridiculously macho) and left most of his past foul-y headbutting-ness behind. He doesn’t need to foul anymore; he’s one of the best boxers in the world.
I’m sure I’m not alone amongst boxing fans when I say I’m not exactly sure how he does it. He doesn’t hit very hard. There are flashier guys out there, faster ones too. But there’s no-one out there who can rival “Desert Storm” for sheer grit. We’d seen that before this year, but perhaps not appreciated it enough. There’s no doubting it now.
Tim Bradley is a born winner, and he wins here again at The Queensberry Rules’ Fighter of the Year.