Bradley seeking big bucks; Resto wants forgiveness
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Sunrise, FL (Sports Network) -
There's been a change in Timothy Bradley.
Sure, the smiling Californian is still as affable as they come, still wants to maintain a "normal" home life in spite of sports fame and still happens to be among the very upper echelon of professional fighters making a living at 140 pounds.
But just a few weeks short of his 26th birthday and few hours short of what figures to be the toughest challenge of an as-yet unbeaten career, the Palm Springs resident seems a little more focused than he used to on the ultimate payoff for his toil in the ring.
"It's all about making money in this game," he said. "You look at a guy like Pacquiao and he's got a great team behind him, so he can make some serious, serious money. He's toward the end of his career and he's trying to break the bank and make as much as he can on the way out.
"But I can't blame him. If I were him, I'd do the same thing. He can fight who he wants and not get knocked for it. He knows who the real guys he ought to be fighting are, but he's not going to tell you that. That's just the way it is."
Bradley, who'll meet former lightweight champion Nate Campbell in defense of his WBO junior welterweight crown Saturday night, established himself among the world elite in his weight class last spring with a surprising 12-round defeat of WBC claimant Junior Witter.
Timothy Bradley established himself among the world elite in his weight class last spring.
He defended against Edner Cherry on an aborted Campbell card four months later in Biloxi, Miss., then headed north to defeat then-WBO champ Kendall Holt in a would-be unification bout on April 4 in Montreal.
Given the choice of which belt to keep after the Holt win, he chose the WBO jewelry and left Witter and unbeaten Devon Alexander to meet for the vacant WBC title -- in the final bout before his match with Campbell at Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage.
And, to hear him tell it, the only hurdle remaining between him and true superiority at 140 -- Pacquiao and his IBO title notwithstanding -- is a convincing winning result this weekend.
"I have to knock Nate Campbell out," Bradley said. "That's the only way. If I knock out Nate Campbell, that absolutely solidifies me as the best 140-pound fighter in the world. I'm a two-time world champion and that would put an exclamation on it."
With that goal in mind, Bradley changed things up while preparing for the 37- year-old Floridian, eschewing a normal three-month training camp in favor of a less repetitious six-week regimen that was possible because of his penchant for keeping weight down between fights.
He swelled to just 154 pounds after defeating Holt and maintained his conditioning by running hills several times a week, meaning a full-fledged 12 weeks of hard work wasn't necessary.
"I'm absolutely prepared both mentally and physically, and I'm focused and feeling very fresh," he said. "I was already in good shape when I got to camp, and I was able to spar 186 rounds. Conditioning won't be a problem Saturday. With me, it's all about skill."
Campbell, twice beaten in world title fights before upending Juan Diaz for the IBF, WBA and WBO crowns at 135, presents a multi-tiered challenge with a power resume of 25 knockouts in 33 wins and a tough-man image that can sometimes unsettle less-aggressive foes.
Bradley, though, has successfully endured Campbell's taunts at pre-fight press conferences and remains confident that neither the hometown spotlight nor the veteran's harsh words will play a role once the 12-round task is finally at hand.
"Looks are deceiving," he said. "A lot of guys look at me and think 'I can beat that guy,' but then they get in the ring with me and it's a different story. That's OK. Guys talk to build their confidence and they try to get in my head, but it doesn't work.
"Holt was successful with it. It was part of his game and he got to me a little bit, and he wanted me to get all riled up to where I might walk into a timing shot. But I'm past that stage now. And there's nothing Nate Campbell can say that?s going to keep leather off his face."
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Baseball and boxing have very little in common.
A loss in one provides frustration that can be avenged with another game 24 hours later.
In the other, the pain persists far longer.
Still, the longer I sat and watched a preview of HBO's 83-minute documentary "Assault in the Ring" -- which premieres Saturday night at 10 -- the more I thought of Pete Rose.
In vividly recalling the Luis Resto-Billy Collins Jr. bout, whose result led to Collins' untimely death and Resto's prolonged poverty, producer/director Eric Drath deftly weaves a tale in which the Puerto Rican slugger -- similar to the Cincinnati hit king -- is initially defiant, then tearfully contrite.
Two decades later, I'm not sure either man is better off for his admissions.
While Rose's book-fueled confession of baseball gambling may yet lead to Hall of Fame enshrinement, it's done little to convince the public he's actually sorrier for what he did than for having been caught doing it.
Some call him tragic. Others...pathetic.
Clearly the stakes are higher and the circumstances more catastrophic in Resto's case.
"You know, I think about that fight almost every day," he said. "When (Collins died) I wanted to commit suicide."
But I'm not so sure the on-camera tears wash away the brutality.
Whether his complicity with tampering that night in 1983 was complete or peripheral, the chilling passage in which he admits to wanting to "destroy" Collins in the ring seems to belie any regret actually felt over 30 fateful minutes at the Garden.
In fact, he not only admitted to wearing gloves stripped of half their padding, but also claimed to have knowingly had his hand wraps augmented by a plaster-like substance eerily similar to that used by Antonio Margarito in January.
And while the post-confession apology to Collins' family and confrontation of trainer Panama Lewis are admirable, a more visceral take-away is Resto?s panicked look to the corner when Collins' father grasps his hand after the fight and immediately senses an irregularity.
Plenty of chances had existed to come clean over 10 rounds.
But, like Rose, he appeared more concerned with being caught than with what he'd done.
And if he had gotten away with it...it's anyone guess.
Would Resto have experienced a self-serving burst of tearful conscience somewhere down the road, or conveniently kept the secret until another dressing-room conspirator uttered a damning deathbed confession?
Problem is, unlike Rose, the parties he cheated earn no real retribution either way.
If any sympathy is warranted, it's only in comparing Resto's prison aftermath to that of a bling-laden, Florida-based Lewis, who seems well off financially and is still able to train high-end pros in the gym in spite of a ban from the actual corner on fight nights.
Resto never fought after the Collins incident, ending his career after 31 fights.
Collins died in a car wreck nine months later, at age 22.
"For the longest time, he would just sit in the apartment and smoke and drink and trash the apartment by himself," said Andrea Collins-Morse, Billy's former wife.
"It's like everything was taken that night in the ring."
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This week's title-fight schedule:
WBO junior welterweight title -- Rancho Mirage, Calif. Timothy Bradley (champion) vs. Nate Campbell (No. 1 contender) Bradley (24-0, 11 KO): First WBO title defense; Unbeaten in three title fights (3-0, 0 KO) Campbell (33-5-1, 25 KO): First title fight at 140 pounds; One win in three title fights (1-2, 0 KO)
FitzHitz says: Campbell in 10
Vacant WBC super lightweight title -- Rancho Mirage, Calif. Devon Alexander (No. 2 contender) vs. Junior Witter (No. 3 contender) Alexander (18-0, 11 KO): First title fight; Won three straight by KO/TKO Witter (37-2-2, 22 KO): Former WBC champion (2006-08); Five career title fights (3-2, 2 KO)
FitzHitz says: Witter by decision
Vacant IBF welterweight title -- Uncasville, Conn. Delvin Rodriguez (No. 2 contender) vs. Isaac Hlatshwayo (No. 3 contender) Rodriguez (24-2-2, 14 KO): First title fight; Fought 12-round draw with Hlatshwayo in 2008 Hlatshwayo (28-1-1, 10 KO): Former IBO champ at 135 and 147; Six title-fight wins (6-0, 1 KO)
FitzHitz says: Hlatshwayo by decision
Last week's picks: 2-0
Overall picks record: 113-42 (72.9 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 20-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to Stone Cold Sports on the MVN Network (stonecoldsports.com) and several sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz.