LAS VEGAS -- Welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. soaked it all in. Everywhere he turned there was a fight fan wanting him to pose for a photo or to sign an autograph or just to chat for a minute.
This is the kind of attention Bradley has always wanted -- the good kind, not the bad kind that was dumped all over him after last June's gift split decision win against Manny Pacquiao in one of the most controversial decisions in recent boxing history. After that fight, Bradley was down. He mostly kept to himself at his home with his wife, Monica, and their kids (with another one on the way) in Palm Springs, Calif.
Bradley even got death threats from some overzealous people who took the result of the fight with Pacquiao way too seriously and somehow blamed him for the scoring.
So when Bradley ended his nine-month layoff and finally returned to the ring on March 16 to make his first title defense against Russian brawler Ruslan Provodnikov, Bradley had a bit of a chip on his shoulder. He wanted to prove to the fans and media that he deserved the belt he had claimed against Pacquiao and also that he could be in an exciting fight, since part of the rap against him was that he did not have a crowd-pleasing style.
Bradley threw out the boxing playbook and straight rumbled with Provodnikov in a fantastic fight at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. It was easily the most exciting fight either of them had ever been in. Bradley nearly got knocked out in the first and second rounds but kept fighting his heart out, even overcoming a knockdown in the final seconds of the fight to win a tight unanimous decision and retain his belt.
And now, there he was at last Friday's Mike Alvarado-Brandon Rios II weigh-in at the Mandalay Bay Events Center soaking in enormous amounts of adulation as he was recognized everywhere he went by fans still buzzing over the tremendous fight with Provodnikov.
Monica was off to his side, smiling and clearly enjoying seeing her husband getting so much attention.
"It's been great. The reception from the fans has been wonderful," said Bradley, who broke away from his newfound fans to talk with ESPN.com. "It feels good to have positive vibes and the fans respecting you and your work. I'm just happy they are giving me a lot of respect and acknowledgment for the great fight that I had with Provodnikov."
As nice as it has been for the 29-year-old Bradley (30-0, 12 KOs) to gain such recognition, a fight like the one he had with Provodnikov usually comes with a price. Bradley said afterward that he felt he had a concussion and that he had fought with it for much of the bout.
"We went to the hospital after the fight and I had two doctors look at me," Bradley said. "One of the doctors said I didn't have a concussion and one said I did. But they ran a CT scan on me and it came up negative, but I felt I had one. I have had a concussion before so I know exactly how you feel -- a little drowsy, you feel tired, you feel like your equilibrium is off all the time."
Bradley said he felt those symptoms in the days following the fight. When he arrived in Las Vegas last Friday, he went for an MRI exam at a brain specialist just to follow up. His manager, Cameron Dunkin, and promoter Top Rank thought it was better to be safe than sorry, and Bradley agreed.
"I went and got an MRI done here in Vegas and everything is 100 percent," said Bradley, who said he no longer feels like he is in a fog. "Everything is great. I got the MRI and everything came back clear. No concussion, no brain bleed, no nothing. It was something Top Rank and Cameron came up with. They wanted me to get checked out just to be on the safe side. They were just looking out for me."
Bradley said he has been asked about the fight daily since and is still a bit in awe by what happened during those 12 fiery rounds. He said he has watched the fight "like 20 times."
"It takes a special guy to take me there and Provodnikov was that guy," Bradley said. "Styles make fights. Provodnikov definitely had a style that made me fight him more than I wanted to. I could have boxed a little bit more, but I was out there to definitely gain respect from the fans and show the world what I'm made of.
"I went straight in, but I felt very confident I was a better inside fighter than him. What I didn't realize is this guy is extremely strong and he can punch. Man, when I felt that power I was like, 'Wow!' I could not believe what was going on in the ring, but I can always make adjustments. I thought it was a great fight. We put on a great show for the fans and all the people watching on HBO."
Bradley said he hopes to fight at least twice more this year. He hopes to fight once this summer and again in the fall. He remains a possible opponent to face Pacquiao in a rematch in September, although Pacquiao is more likely to face Juan Manuel Marquez for the fifth time instead. Bradley could also wind up facing Marquez if a Marquez-Pacquiao fight does not come off.
"My job is to be ready for whoever they put in front of me," Bradley said. "I honestly don't care who I fight. I got to a point where I don't really care who I fight. I just want to put on a good fight for the fans. I'm gonna make my money regardless. Of course, you want the big fights out there but they are not always accessible. I'll fight anybody. It really doesn't matter.
"If Pacquiao wants to fight me again, I'm willing to fight him. If he doesn't want to fight me then, hey, move on, whose the next guy? Line 'em and I'll knock 'em down. And I told Top Rank that. I told (Top Rank chairman) Bob (Arum) that. I told (Top Rank president) Todd duBoef. I told my wife, I told Cameron. I told them, 'Your job is to promote me as a fighter, so promote me. You do your job, I'll do my job. You line 'em up and I'll knock 'em down.' That's plain and simple. We got that understanding now. If it's a fight I don't like I'll let them know. It was just like Lamont Peterson (for a rematch proposed for last December). I didn't like that fight. I already done that."
Bradley's main goal is not to fight a specific opponent, but to get in at least two more fights this year. He knows that by being active he will remain in the spotlight, which he is clearly enjoying following the battle with Provodnikov.
"I'm not waiting on anybody. Three fights this year," Bradley said. "I need to stay busy. That's the only way I'm gonna get recognition and gain more and more fans each time out. They gotta see me fight. I haven't fought a lot the last three or four years. I don't want these long 10-month layoffs. I want to stay active. You lose the feeling in the ring when you wait so long. You lose how it feels to get hit with those shots. You lose everything.
"I want to stay busy so I can always have that feeling. Any opponent out there, it really don't matter. Call whoever you need to call and bring it on. I don't care. Bring it on."
When the interview was over, Bradley returned to his public. There were more photos to take and autographs to sign.