INDIO — After the battle Timothy Bradley was coming off of in March, it would be reasonable that the WBO welterweight champion might ease into his first sparring session of training camp for his Oct. 12 fight.
But Bradley isn’t always reasonable.
For his very first sparring session, Bradley took on a man considered one of the most dangerous punchers in all of boxing when he welcomed Argentinian Lucas Matthysse into the Indio Boys and Girls Club on Monday.
Bradley and Matthysse were already scheduled to work together, as Matthysse had said he wanted to move his training camp from Las Vegas to Indio so he could avoid all the distractions of Sin City.
Matthysse is in final preparation for his WBC and WBA light welterweight title fight against champion Danny Garcia as the co-main event on the Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez super fight on Sept. 14. The dangerous Matthysse is 34-3, with 32 of those victories coming by knockout. Both losses were controversial decisions to Devon Alexander and Zab Judah in their hometowns.
In Matthysse’s last victory in May, a second-round destruction of Lamont Peterson, the victory was so impressive that Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer declared Matthysse the next Manny Pacquiao.
Bradley is preparing for his Oct. 12 fight against Juan Manuel Marquez, a future Hall of Fame boxer who is considered the best technician. For Bradley, it makes sense to spar Matthysse.
Just not on the first day of sparring.
“It was shocking. I think it was shocking to everyone that was in the gym — shocking to my father, shocking to my team that I was coming back and sparring such a big name and a tough kid, a guy who punches so hard and knocks out everyone,” Bradley said.
“It was a shock to everyone,” he said. “Joel didn’t set this up, it just kind of happened. It was just a spur of the moment type of thing. He came down, ‘hey, why don’t we get in the ring and spar.’ I didn’t expect to spar Matthysse today. I really didn’t expect him today. He was like, ‘hey let’s get some work, we might as well get some work while we’re here.’ ”
Bradley hasn’t sparred for five months. And the last time Bradley took punches, he was brutally punished by Ruslan Provodnikov, suffering a concussion early in the fight and then was knocked down in the closing seconds.
But the determined Bradley never backed down, and threw more punches to win enough rounds to escape with a close unanimous decision.
While many were concerned if Bradley was taking on too much too soon this week, he saw it a different way. Bradley and Matthysse figure to spar frequently over the next 10 days.
“I’m prepared, I’m a professional athlete,” Bradley said. “If I get my (butt) kicked, it’s on me. But I’m a professional athlete, I have to be ready. But at the end of the day, I know what I’m capable of doing.
“It’s like my trainer said, if I hadn’t gotten in the ring for two years, or a year, I’ll get in the ring now and kick the (expletive) out of someone right now. It’s true. It’s in you. At the end of the day, it’s in you and I’m a four-time world champion.”
With the kind of punishment Bradley endured in March, there were some questions about how resilient his body would still be. And Bradley said some questioned if he should even spar Matthysse so soon.
“They were like ‘Whoa, why would you bring in a big puncher at this time?’ ” Bradley said. “But I understand boxing is a big mind game and I think I overcame any fear I had that I wouldn’t be ready for the Marquez fight. I took some hard shots today and it was nothing. I didn’t get rocked, didn’t get dazed.
“I was fine. It was like I told you guys I was good. I told you guys, I’m not crazy. We’ll, I’m a little crazy, but I got my wits about me.”
A few years ago, Bradley was offered a chance to become the sparring partner for Pacquiao, who was at the time the pound-for-pound champion in boxing. But Bradley’s team advised him to turn down the opportunity, feeling that someday he might fight Pacquiao. That came to pass in 2012, when Bradley shocked the boxing world by upsetting Pacquiao with a controversial split decision.
A Bradley-Matthysse fight would be a marquee fight. But Bradley doesn’t see himself and Matthysse getting into the ring anytime soon.
Bradley is fighting at the 147-pound welterweight division, while Matthysse is in the 140-pound light welterweight division. While Matthysse could theoretically move up in weight, Bradley believes that Matthysse has too many good fights to be made at his division.
“I’m pretty sure he’s comfortable there,” Bradley said. “He has a lot of work to do. After Garcia, a couple of guys will want to take a crack at him. He’ll be there for a while.”
Also, Bradley is represented by Top Rank promotions while Matthysse is with Golden Boy Promotions, and those companies haven’t let their fighters fight each other in years.
Bradley said he enjoyed his first day of work with boxing’s latest sensation. And Matthysse is ideal for Bradley’s preparation of Marquez. There are many similarities between Matthysse and Marquez, particularly the dangerous left hook.
“He has all that punching power in both hands, especially the left hook,” Bradley said. “Marquez loves to throw that left hook a lot. I know that’s the punch they’ll be looking to throw for this fight. Matthysse definitely made me aware of it early in the sparring session. He does things that Marquez likes to do and he’s making me aware of it right now.
“Sparring this guy will help me psychology for what’s ahead. It was a really good look, it boosted my confidence and it was good to see this guy.”