Three thoughts on Timothy Bradley’s wildly entertaining win over Ruslan Provodnikov:
Who saw this coming?
Bradley, the defending champion who has spent his career competing against top competition, was a heavy favorite coming in against Provodnikov, a 140-pounder best known for being Manny Pacquiao’s sparring partner. But from the opening bell, it was clear this was no mismatch. Both Provodnikov and Bradley came out aggressive, but while Bradley landed the higher volume of punches, Provodnikov’s carried more steam behind them. Provodnikov had Bradley rocked multiple times in the first two rounds, including a shot in the first that appeared to knock Bradley down, to the point where he stumbled twice just trying to get up. Referee Pat Russell ruled it a slip, and Bradley recovered to control the action until the 12th round, when an aggressive Provodnikov swarmed him with power punches and put him down with less than 20 seconds to go. The final scores (114-113, twice, and 115-12) were right, given that judges are handcuffed by what the referee calls. But if Russell had ruled a first-round knockdown, the fight would have been scored a draw.
Provodnikov blew it
Credit Provodnikov for fighting through a nasty cut above his left eye, and credit him for absorbing an enormous amount of punishment from Bradley, but remember this: Several times, Provodnikov had Bradley listless—Bradley admitted after the fight he believes he suffered a concussion in the first two rounds—where one or two clean punches would have put him down, and Provodnikov ran out of gas. He took the entire third round off and didn’t seem to regain his energy until the last two rounds, when trainer Freddie Roach told him he needed to show him something or he would stop the fight. When Provodnikov watches this fight—and I’m guessing he will, a lot—he is going to kick himself for not having the energy to put Bradley down when he had chances.
Bradley moves on
You, me and everyone else would like to see a rematch, but Top Rank has bigger things in store for Bradley. Promoter Bob Arum is pushing a form of a tournament featuring Bradley, the winner of the March 30th rematch between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado, and the winner of the likely rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. In all likelihood, Bradley will get the winner of Rios-Alvarado, which given the punching power of both will be no easy task.
As for Provodnikov, well, whether it’s at 140- or 147-pounds, expect him to be back on HBO just as soon as he is physically able. His relentless, stalking style is television friendly, and after his performance against Bradley, there is no doubt he can hold his own against any of the top contenders in the two weight classes.
- Chris Mannix