LOS ANGELES--For Juan Manuel Marquez and Timothy Bradley, Saturday's welterweight championship fight in Las Vegas is hooked to the matter of what each boxer has to prove.
Does Marquez have enough? Does Bradley have too much?
Marquez, who turned 40 in August, is coming off the defining fight of his career, a one-punch knockout of his archrival Manny Pacquiao late in the sixth round in their memorable bout last December.
The win was sweet vindication for Marquez, who got his first victory in four fights against Pacquiao. Marquez is now a slight betting favorite over the unbeaten Bradley at MGM Resorts' sports book. Marquez weighed in Friday at 144.5 pounds, Bradley at 146.
Marquez (55-6-1, 40 knockouts) says he's motivated to beat Bradley in the bout at the Thomas & Mack Center because that would make him the first Mexican to win world titles in five different weight classes. Would that make him the greatest Mexican boxer ever?
"I think so," Marquez said. "I want to win this belt because of the historical fact. Bradley is a great, undefeated fighter."
Meanwhile, Palm Springs' Bradley (30-0, 12 knockouts) finds himself in a perplexing inner drama.
Logic says the 30-year-old Bradley's best route to victory is an artistic boxing performance, using his younger legs and reflexes to avoid Marquez's newfound power, darting in to land blows and frustrating the counterpunching specialist Marquez like Floyd Mayweather Jr. did four years ago.
Bradley said his major focus in training was "boxing."
"I need to get back to what got me here today -- being smart, listening to my corner, working hard," Bradley said. "This fighter I'm facing here is a tough cookie, man. The best fighter I've ever faced in my career."
Yet Bradley, who edged Pacquiao by a highly controversial split decision in 2012, still appreciates the buzz he received from his last fight. In March he survived a brawl, a concussion and a 12th-round knockdown to win a tight unanimous-decision victory over Russia's Ruslan Provodnikov.
"I set out to prove something to the whole world, to myself that night," Bradley said. "A lot of people after the Pacquiao decision lost respect for me, said I was a fake champion.
"I wanted to prove I'm willing to get into harm's way to get a win. I abandoned my original plan to just box. I traded with (Provodnikov). I wanted to knock this kid out. Finish him. Send a statement.
"He had dynamite in his hands, more power than Marquez, and I got in some trouble . . . my wife left crying in the second round. But I bounced back, showed the heart of a lion. . . . And a lot of people gave me credit for putting on a great show."
Tempting fate again versus Marquez could be dangerous.
"You can isolate, neutralize his power by avoiding it," Bradley said. "If I go in there with the mentality that there's knives on Marquez's hands -- don't get touched -- I won't."
Bradley will earn $4.1 million for Saturday's fight, Marquez $6 million.
"I want the fans to be happy. I want to win, but I'm still trying to build a fan base," Bradley said. "I'm trying to reach the real big money, where most of these guys like Marquez and Pacquiao are. I know I almost died in that (Provodnikov) fight, but I loved that I finally got credit after it.
"When (Marquez) hits me flush on the chin with his best shot and I don't go nowhere, he knows he's in trouble," Bradley said.
As for Marquez, despite his win over Pacquiao the Mexican star vows he won't be obsessed with knocking out Bradley.
"I've changed my training to (focus on) Bradley's speed," Marquez said. "For Pacquiao, I worked on strength. Bradley uses speed and experience."
Once again, Marquez has worked with controversial strength and conditioning coach Angel "Memo" Heredia. Earlier in his career, Heredia was a steroid supplier to track stars Marion Jones, Justin Gatlin and Tim Montgomery, then became a government informant in the prosecution's case against track coach Trevor Graham.
Marquez and Heredia say the boxer's muscular build came about naturally in training. Last year, for the Pacquiao-Marquez fight, the boxers faced the standard urine tests administered by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
But for this bout, both fighters were subjected during training to random blood and urine tests for performance-enhancing drugs, with the testing overseen by the Nevada commission. Marquez said last week he was "happy" to submit three blood screens and one urine sample and "prove I don't have a problem."
Marquez has been through more than Bradley, with a 462-218 advantage in rounds of pro experience. And Heredia has put Marquez through a five-month-long training camp.
"I'm not going to just come forward and have just one way to beat you," Marquez said. "I'm going to use my experience. I know what I need to do to beat Bradley."
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