By Eric Raskin
Boxers are a rare breed. We're talking about people who punch and get punched for a living. It's not an insult to say all boxers are at least a little bit crazy; it's simply an acknowledgement of something we, and they, know to be true.
So for a writer to try to get inside a fighter's head is, admittedly, a challenge. But since when is that a reason not to try?
Here's an exclusive* peek into some of the thoughts that have been rattling around inside Timothy Bradley's head at various points over the last couple of years:
When: Constantly, during every fight
What: Outside-of-head, this is inside-of-head talking. You see that other head in front of you? Ram into it. Hard. Don't worry, you'll be fine. You're made of some sort of metal alloy only found in bulletproof vests, the support structure of major bridges, and that sword Tywin Lannister melted down on Game of Thrones last week.
When: Waiting for scorecards to be read after first fight with Manny Pacquiao
What: Considering I had an injured ankle and an injured foot, that went pretty well. I lasted the distance, I finished strong. I mean, I'm pretty sure I lost. But not by a lot. After that decision for Pacquiao is read, if they ask how I think I did, I should tell them I think it was close and I'm going to have to watch the tape. That's a good stock answer.
When: The months after the Pacquiao fight
What: This is supposed to be the crowning moment of my career — I became the first fighter in seven years to defeat Manny Pacquiao — and instead I'm the bad guy. Do people not realize that I wasn't the one scoring the fight? (If I had been, I would have still won it, eight rounds to four, but that's beside the point.) I'm just the fighter. I gave a hell of an effort. I battled through injuries and stood up to everything Pacquiao could dish out. The same punches that knocked Ricky Hatton cold and forced Oscar De La Hoya to surrender had almost no effect on me. I should be feted everywhere I go; instead I'm being treated worse than if I'd been knocked out in one round. I can't even line up another fight. I should be having the time of my life right now. Instead, I'm feeling pretty darned depressed. I'm going to go grow one of those unruly depression beards that makes it look like I've given up on life.
When: On the way to the ring for the Ruslan Provodnikov fight
What: Not gonna hear a single boo tonight. This guy is an ESPN2 fighter, it should be easy, so I'm going to stand and trade and have some fun in there.
When: Two rounds into the Provodnikov fight
When: During the Face Off with Max Kellerman for the Pacquiao rematch
What: Don't blink. Don't smile. You got this guy right where you want him. He's uncomfortable. He doesn't want to be here. He's lost the hunger. Maybe we should tell him he's lost the hunger and see how he responds. I hope he smiles and laughs and doesn't really dispute the assertion.
When: While reading this blog post right now
What: What is this writer talking about? He doesn't know what I'm thinking. I bet I know what he's thinking though, "Oh, I'm just going to imagine what it's like to be Tim Bradley. I know, I'll make a headbutt joke." I should headbutt him.
*Inside HBO Boxing and Eric Raskin do not claim to have exclusive access to Timothy Bradley's thoughts.