Bradley confident as Pacquiao fight nears, Quillin set to fight Wright
Timothy Bradley is confident he can beat Manny Pacquiao when they fight June 9
Bradley is working to eliminate head butts, which he has a reputation for throwing
Sergey Kovalev will fight on Friday for first time since killing a man in the ring
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- Over four decades as a promoter, Bob Arum has worked with some confident fighters. He has promoted Muhammad Ali and Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns and Oscar De La Hoya. So when Arum says he is surprised by Timothy Bradley's confidence leading up to his WBO welterweight title fight against Manny Pacquiao next Saturday night, it carries some weight.
"One thing that I have to say that hit me immediately," Arum said, "is how confident he is and his camp [is] about the battle that will take place on June 9th."
Yes, with the biggest fight of his career looming -- a showdown with welterweight champion Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (HBO PPV, 9 p.m.) -- Bradley has ratcheted up the rhetoric. He boasts that he will destroy Pacquiao. He mocks him for not being able to put a 38-year-old Juan Manuel Marquez away. He claims to be the best conditioned fighter in boxing and that Pacquiao will fold under his relentless counterpunching. At a recent workout, Bradley brought a poster for "Bradley-Pacquiao 2," with tickets for the rematch supposedly going on sale hours after the first fight.
"I systematically break guys down," Bradley said. "I get in the ring and they say I don't have any power but then they feel me and feel my strength. As soon as they get hit they want to hold me. The last couple of fights guys have been holding me all night. It makes it hard for me to really get my work in.
"I break them down and take every punch away from them. Starting with the jab, I take that away then I take the straight left away. Hit them in the body, break them down and apply the pressure. If you're not hitting hard in there and I don't feel threatened then I'm going to take it to you."
To prepare for Pacquiao, Bradley has recruited sparring partners with pop. He has brought in big, heavy-handed punchers with a mandate to swing early and swing often. Four of them rotate in, keeping fresh bodies that Bradley hopes will be able to duplicate Pacquiao's power, particularly his potent left hand.
"I know in training I'm not getting hit a whole lot with it," Bradley said. "In the beginning of training camp I was getting hit with it but now I am stepping underneath it -- great defense and great footwork and counter-punching. I've been looking really good and not getting hit a lot in training camp. I am dialed in on the left hand."
The stink attached to Bradley in recent years is that he wields his head like a weapon. In camp, Pacquiao's team has taken to calling Bradley "Billy goat Bradley," while during training sessions Freddie Roach will chase Pacquiao around the ring with his head out, forcing Pacquiao to avoid it. Bradley is conscious of his head butting and says he has worked in this camp to eliminate it.
"It has altered preparation and we are trying to eliminate head butts," Bradley said. "[I'm] throwing my shots out before coming in with my head and then stepping in, as opposed to leaning in then throwing shots. We've been working on it in the gym and have been very successful with it in sparring and keeping my balance. I definitely don't want this fight to end on a head butt."
Bradley understands he can't win a firefight with Pacquiao on the outside, which is why his focus in this camp has been getting into Pacquiao's chest and fighting from there.
"You look at all his fights, he doesn't fight well inside," Bradley said. "He throws combinations then steps out and comes in on an angle. He doesn't like to stay there and bang, but maybe that's what they are working on now. So we are aware of that. If he comes in to bang, I'll go to boxing."
"I am so confident I am just ready. I am in the best shape of my life. I have put in the time in the gym. For the last four years I have been studying this guy, looking at this guy. I have admired this guy. This is my time. It's an opportunity of a lifetime and I'm going to give it 110%. I'm putting it all on the line, so you are going to see a great fight. If you miss this fight you are going to miss some greatness."
When last seen, middleweight prospect Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin was in New York, stalking middleweight contender Andy Lee, trying to get Lee to agree to fight him on the undercard of the March 2012 Sergio Martinez-Matthew Macklin show. Lee passed, electing to take a safer fight while he waited for Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. On Saturday night Quillin (26-0) will finally get a crack at a high profile middleweight when he takes on Winky Wright (51-5-1) at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET).
Conventional wisdom says the defensive-minded Wright will try to tie Quillin up on the inside and use his experience to score points. Quillin says he is preparing for something different.
"Winky, he lets his heart become him sometimes," Quillin said. "He has a lot to prove. He has to impress his celebrity friends. He's probably got a fee at the golf course he needs to pay up. He has five losses on his record. He's been out for 2 1/2 years. I think it's disrespectful of him to think he can come in after that time off and take on a fighter like me. He should have taken a tune-up. All the pain and suffering I endured during training, it's all going to come out on his jaw. He's going to come in and run into something and he's going to think he is on Pluto."
Saturday also marks the 32nd anniversary of Quillin's father, Peter Sr., fleeing Cuba for the United States. To honor the moment, Quillin has shaved and colored the Cuban flag into the back of his head.
"My Dad came here looking for opportunity," Quillin said. "Now, I'm the one looking for it. I'm very blessed that my Dad was able to come here."
Last December, Sergey Kovalev lived every boxer's nightmare: His opponent died from injuries suffered while in the ring.
Kovalev, 29, was facing Roman Simakov for a minor title in Ekaturinberg, Russia. The fight was one-sided, with the 6-foot, 175-pound Kovalev raining punches down on Simakov. He put him down in the sixth round and brutally battered him until the referee stepped in to stop the fight in the seventh.
Immediately after the stoppage, Simakov lost consciousness. He slipped into a coma and passed away from complications from brain injuries a few days later. In interviews soon after, Kovalev's message was succinct: Forgive me, Roman.
On Friday, Kovalev (17-0) will fight for the first time since the tragic incident, returning to the ring to face Darnell Boone (19-18-3) on the undercard of the NBC Sports Network show headlined by junior middleweight contenders Gabriel Rosado and Sechew Powell (9 p.m., NBC Sports Network).
Simakov's death lingers with Kovalev. When asked about it in an interview on Thursday, Kovalev's head sank. He paused before answering, the emotion washed over his face.
"I don't feel guilty about it," Kovalev said. "Accidents happen. You have to let it go."
Kovalev says he doesn't know how he will feel when he gets in the ring, doesn't know if his trademark aggression will still be there. He hopes it will. And he hopes this fight with Boone, who he outpointed in 2010, will help him move on.
"I will try to not think about [Roman]," Kovalev said. "I have to think about this fight. I am trying not to remember the past. I need future. I need a good future."