The former junior welterweight and reigning WBO Welterweight champion of the world, Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley, has faced just about as much flack as any top flight pugilist did in 2012. The boxing world already knew of Bradley heading into the previous year, however few outside of fight fanatics had heard of him until last June’s controversial, and hotly debated triumph over Filipino icon, Manny Pacquiao.
That night, Bradley had found himself on boxing’s biggest stage: a sold out MGM Grand Garden Arena on the Las Vegas Strip, with huge Pay-Per-View numbers to boot. So the stage was set for Bradley to break the mold of being only a boxing purists notable. What ensued however, was Bradley fighting a competitive fight, but to the eyes of many not a fight that could garner him a victory by any means. This left Bradley as being a bit despised, and he took a lot of the blame for what the judges’ verdict was. However, Bradley isn’t the man sitting ringside tallying the score cards. So for those that disagreed with the outcome (and yes you are far from alone) they need to understand it was not Bradley’s decision to make.
Because of the scrutiny that Bradley faced following the biggest victory of his career, the Palm Springs, California, native hasn’t been able to capitalize on what should have been a jackpot of a victory. He’s had no cash in as of yet. So that left a short list of opponents for Bradley. Enter Ruslan Provodnikov. A hard hitting Russian native, who comes forward, comes forward, and then comes forward. Provodnikov is no Willie Pep by any stretch of the imagination (or even Miguel Vasquez Jr, the IBF Lightweight world champion). What else Provodnikov is, though, is tough as nails. Speaking to the growing sentiment that eastern European fighters may not be the most graceful fighters, but they’re will and discipline are becoming equalizers at the championship level.
Provodnikov was expected to be thwarted, or decisioned easily. Forgive BRB for being cliche, but as the old saying goes: “Anything can happen in boxing.” And unlike many cliches, this one is no exaggeration. So when the opening bell rang on a chilly night in Carson, California, the very unexpected took place. A fight that was suppose to be one-sided and or dull turned into 2013’s first entry for fight of the year, and came within inches of giving boxing fans it’s first entry for upset of the year. Which is why, as unoriginal it sounds, another old adage must be put forth: “This is why we watch the fights”.
To the shock of thousands on hand in the Home Depot Center, Bradley, by the second half of the first round after fighting well in the first half, found himself out on his feet. Bradley’s rocky first would be Followed up by a even worse second stanza. A round in which Bradley found himself out on his feet, and taking even more punches from the heavy handed Provodnikov. The round arguably could have been scored 10-8, even without a knockdown, or point deduction having taken place. Bradley was being hit with those punches because he was choosing to fight in the phone booth with a fighter whose sole advantage was punching power. With Bradley staying right in front of Provodnikov, it didn’t matter if he was landing two to one. Bradley doesn’t have the power to hurt Provodnikov, and as said before, Provodnikov is the puncher, and a durable, tough one at that.
Speaking of tough, Bradley, regardless of spectators’ opinions on who won the fight, certainly quieted any critics saying Bradley is a fighter that can not bring excitement and heart to the ring. Well, The WBO welterweight champion brought both to the squared circle this past Saturday in spades.
After a brutal opening first two rounds, Bradley recovered nicely. Although it appeared he didn’t come prepared to stick and move, Bradley made the adjustment a champion makes. And in the third and fourth rounds, Bradley got himself right back into the fight. Perhaps Bradley underestimated his foe, and coupled with the pressure from the boxing public and media, felt as if he had to put on a spectacular, dominant showing. Perhaps a knockout. Thus the theory being put forth that Bradley didn’t prepare as well as he could have for the element of lateral movement and boxing ability being in his game for this bout..
After winning the third and fourth rounds, it was far for smooth sailing for Bradley. Provodnikov had found himself outboxed in those stanzas, but then, in the fifth and sixth, the nature of the bout turned more into a fight with exchanges. And that kind of fight, as it did in the first two rounds, favors Provodnikov. And on BRB’s scorecard, swung the scoring and momentum back into his favor.
After the sixth, Bradley was able to slow the pace, fight on his legs more so again as he did in rounds three and four. Going on to dictate rounds six through nine. Then, the bell rang for the 10th, and Bradley was forced, or decided himself to engage more with Provodnikov. Although Provodnikov wasn’t able to win the tenth, he had Bradley fighting his fight once more. Which lead to a amazing final two rounds.
Round eleven was Provodnikov’s, as the two exchanged viciously. The more the fire works were given to the fans, the worse of a fight it was throughout the night for Bradley. Although Bradley landed just as many punches as Provodnikov, it was not his round. Again, Bradley’s shots did not buckle, stun, or even remotely badly hurt Provodnikov. Where as Bradley once again found himself badly hurt just as he had been in the first two rounds. Bradley may have been badly hurt in the eleventh, but wasn’t dominated like he was in the first and second. Because, like a warrior, and due to Bradley perhaps no longer being what is called in boxing “Being caught cold,” early on, Bradley was able to make it a blow for blow, more closely fought stanza.
Then came the 12th, and final round. Which to BRB’s scorecard was concerned, had the fight up for grabs. The fight was seemingly on the table ringside. And after a good job being done by Bradley in the first half of the round, he was then lured into exchanges. The exchanges that had put him through hell all night. And again, he found himself badly hurt. After multiple times of seemingly being within inches of being stopped throughout the night, Bradley finally tasted the canvas with little time to go in the final round. Bradley beat the count and struggled to his feet. It looked from ringside that he may not have been able to beat the count, and that the upset of the year in boxing had it’s first front runner. None of which would ensue. Bradley, fighting on instinct survived the round. And boxing fans on hand live, and watching in their homes had just witnessed a modern day boxing classic. Not bad for a fight with little to no expectations.
So, where does this leave Timothy Bradley, and where does this leave Ruslan Provodnikov? For Provodnikov, Very few, including those in the boxing world knew who Provodnikov was. Well, word of mouth is sure to be spread to those that decided not to tune in. And regardless if that is not to happen, Provodnikov’s notoriety has taken a huge leap. Provodnikov was brought in purely as a oppponent. He brought forth no major marketability, or following. Both of which have had to recieved a boost without question. This may very, very well be only the first time we see him fighting on HBO or Showtime. He deserves a rematch with Timothy Bradley, it would draw much more than their first bout did, and neither man had the entirety of viewers scoring the bout for either fighter. If not that, then Provodnikov deserves another opportunity of, or near the same magnitutde of sorts.
For Bradley, his stock as one of boxing’s very best pound for pound fighters in the world may have slipped, but not to the degree that fans wouldn’t want to see how he’d fare against the likes of Manny Pacuqiao in a rematch, Floyd Mayweather, Juan Manuel Marquez, and maybe some challenges from the 140 pound division. Wether the cream of the crop of that division would be willing to move seven pounds north to face Bradley or vice-versa. All would be highly lucrative, intriguing match ups for the sport. Where Bradley’s stock did rise however, is in fan fare. Some viewers were beginning to call Bradley a dull fighter, regardless if wether they felt he was a top flight fighter. Well, dull fighters don’t get into fight of the year candidates. Ask John Ruiz. If Timothy Bradley opts to put a rematch with Provodnikov on hold for a more lucrative fight with the before mentioned list of opponents he can mix it up with, then no criticsm is deserved. If however, Bradley fights a fighter of the same caliber of Provodnikov, but not Provodnikov himself, then criticism should be put forth.
Hats off to both Timothy Bradley and Ruslan Provodnikov. Scratch that, make it ten sombreros off to each man for reminding fight fans, and all who watched why boxing is the best sport in the world. You can’t get 36 minutes of action like that anywhere else, in any other sport. Neither man deserves to truly be called a loser after a fight like that one, but there was certainly one winner: Boxing, and it’s fans.