Thursday October 6th, 2011

Stressful.

That was the word junior welterweight titleholder Timothy Bradley used to describe the last nine months, a torturous stretch in which he has seen his stock rise to an all-time high (before his fight with Devon Alexander) and plummet to a shocking new low.

"Very stressful," Bradley said in a telephone interview. "I felt like the world was crashing in on me."

Bradley's rise and fall traces to January, when he took on Alexander, a fellow junior welterweight titleholder, in a fight that HBO threw all its muscle behind and used its broad reach to champion as the anointing of boxing's next big star.

Only it wasn't. The show was a dud -- Bradley won a unanimous decision after the fight was stopped in the 10th round due to a cut over Alexander's eye caused by an accidental head butt. The bout drew poor ratings and an even poorer attendance (6,247) in a broken-down building (Detroit's Pontiac Silverdome) that had no business hosting the fight to begin with.

SI.com's Pound-for-Pound Ratings

If the fight was bad, the fallout was worse. Next up, Bradley was supposed to face Amir Khan, who a month earlier had earned an emphatic -- and entertaining -- win over Marcos Maidana. But despite HBO's push (and Khan's willingness to sweeten the pot by nearly $500,000 by splitting the U.K., Middle East and African revenues 50-50), Bradley passed.

Some say it's because Bradley was ducking Khan. Bradley, strongly, disagrees.

"The fight was too soon," Bradley said. "It's like with Alexander. Everyone wanted to see me and him, and he wasn't ready. People say, 'Well if you think you can beat Khan, why don't you?' Well, if I beat him, what does it do for me? I don't go anywhere. It's just not a fulfilling fight."

Complicating matters was Bradley's deteriorating relationship with his promoters, Gary Shaw and Ted Thompson. It was Shaw who cut the two-fight deal with HBO that guaranteed Bradley $1.2 million for each fight. When Shaw negotiated a deal to fight Khan in July, Bradley, whose contract with Shaw expired in June, turned it down and signed with Top Rank. Shaw and Thompson have responded by slapping a lawsuit on Bradley, a copy of which was obtained by SI.com, seeking damages and injunctive relief from Bradley and his manager, Cameron Dunkin.

"I didn't have any marketability whatsoever with [Shaw and Thompson]," Bradley said. "I never fought in L.A., never in New York, never in Las Vegas. I was never exposed to big fights or a big fight card. There was no promotion. Where were the rallies, where was the radio exposure? It just wasn't there."

Though it is expected that Shaw and Thompson will push forward in their case for damages -- according to the complaint, they anticipated earning $450,000 for Bradley's next fight -- both Bradley and Dunkin consider the matter closed.

"He's free and clear," Dunkin said. "We're not worried about any of that."

The perception is that Bradley signed with Top Rank for a chance to fight Manny Pacquiao, and collect the automatic $5 million payday that comes with it. Top Rank's Bob Arum has floated the possibility of a Bradley-Pacquiao fight for weeks, long before he signed him. Though Bradley says he would love a shot at Pacquiao, he claims it wasn't the sole reason to sign with Top Rank.

"I want to become a household name," Bradley said. "I want to become a star in boxing. I need a promoter to promote me and match me so I look good and make me shine. This Pacquiao thing, if I fight him, great. If not, someone will take his place."

Bradley says he is still interested in fighting Khan ... when the time is right.

"Amir Khan needs me, I don't need him," Bradley said. "He's trying to take the Alexander approach, talking all that crap. He's looking silly in the media. He's degrading himself by talking about another fighter. Just shut up. Stop being obsessed with me. I mean, I appreciate the advertisement. He has been mentioning my name for eight months. This is the most exposure I've had in my whole career. It's crazy."

For now, Bradley will focus on his next opponent: faded former lightweight titleholder Joel Casamayor, Nov. 12 on the undercard of the Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez show. Though he hasn't fought in nine months -- and admits he needs to drop 15 pounds to reach the 140-pound limit -- Bradley says he is ready to fight.

"I'm a beast right now," Bradley said. "My physique is ridiculous. I'm hard. I'm chiseled. My legs are strong. Anyone can come down to my gym and watch me spar and train. I picked up right where I left off after the Alexander fight. I started training second week in February. I'm ready to get my career back on track."

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