Timothy Bradley appears during the final news conference for his bout with… (David Becker / Getty Images )
LAS VEGAS — Ray Bradley raised his son like most fathers, pushing the boy to be a more complete version of the parent who ground through sweltering Palm Springs construction, skycap and security guard jobs to support his family.
Timothy Bradley was only 12 when he let it be known he would exceed the standard.
Young Bradley was still learning boxing when he advanced to a Silver Gloves regional competition in Los Angeles against a gifted Arizona southpaw, and a future pro contender, named Jesus Gonzales.
Gonzales engaged Bradley in a spirited fight until the sticking and moving Bradley found an opening and broke Gonzales' nose, prompting a referee to interrupt the bout to wipe away the child's blood. When action resumed, Bradley charged forward, blasting Gonzales in the nose again to draw more blood en route to an upset victory.
"Right then, I knew he was a bad little dude," Ray Bradley said. "I've told him many times since, 'You're not a normal guy. You have a gift.' "
Saturday night at the MGM Grand, with his father in his corner, another tough southpaw awaits 28-year-old Tim Bradley.
His name is Manny Pacquiao.
"A lot of stuff my dad's gone through -- the pain and suffering -- I've gone through," Tim Bradley said. "The reason it works between us is that there was no living through the son.
"Boxing is not something my dad ever knew, or wanted to do. I wanted it. So my dad helped me be the best I can be, and from him I understand the basics of how hard work pays off."
This week as the fight nears, some sage boxing observers shifted from their initial idea that the 147-pound world champion Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 knockouts) will power through the former 140-pound champion Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs). Now some observers like the notion that the wise, young, energetic Bradley will out-work and out-box the distracted and possibly fading veteran.
"In one way or another, I think Manny thinks Tim's of no threat, whether it be that Tim doesn't hit hard or that this is just another fight before Floyd Mayweather," Bradley's trainer Joel Diaz said last week as his fighter concluded training at the Indio Boys and Girls Club. "But Tim's determination to win he figures out a way to win any fight we put him in.
"Manny is a one-dimensional fighter. He unloads a lot of punches, but he's reckless. He doesn't focus on his defense. You can counterpunch him all night long. And Timothy's a brawler who can move his feet and be smart enough to make any changes he needs to in there."
The father's hard lessons certainly will influence the evening.
Ray Bradley didn't raise Tim on fairy tales. Instead, the elder Bradley would talk real life, how it was important for him to smile through the backbreaking task of unloading baggage on a Palm Springs tarmac in order to get the best tips from passengers such as Redd Foxx and Chuck Berry.
Or his father would recount tales from the Baton Rouge, La., high school football field he survived, like that final day in pads when as a 160-pound linebacker Bradley thought it was safe to ease up and arm-tackle when ordered to line up across a charging 240-pound fullback.
"This guy has 20-inch calves, and he came through there at full speed, took me out like a little girl," the elder Bradley said. "Never take nobody lightly And never listen to [your opponent]. Do your own thing.
"Tim knows all that, it's all embedded in him."
The proof is what Tim Bradley's made of his career, taking his first title shot at England's Junior Witter overseas, and winning. Going to Canada and overcoming a knockdown to beat Kendall Holt. Dominating previously unbeaten fighters Lamont Peterson and Devon Alexander by burying his head in their chests and slugging away. Last year Bradley also endured some strife with his former promoters before finally landing a shot at Pacquiao. Once the deal was signed, Bradley said he used the early promotional tour stops to size up Pacquiao, hugging him not out of respect, but to feel his strength.
"He's worn out, tired, I can see it in his eyes, the wrinkles," Bradley said. "This boy's not ready for me."
Bradley is well aware that the odds are against his scoring a knockout or winning close rounds on the judges' scorecards against the popular champion. He's a 5-1 underdog.
"No round is off," Bradley said. "He might start off fast, but I'll figure him out. The smart way. The Bradley way."
At Wednesday's final news conference, a smiling Pacquiao leaned in for another embrace from Bradley.
It wasn't there.
Instead, Bradley delivered only a menacing glare. Pacquiao retreated, tried another smile, and Bradley maintained the scowl. Pacquiao looked down, and walked away.