By Chris Mannix
February 08, 2013
Tim Bradley will face Ruslan Provodinikov on March 16 in Carson, Calif.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

When last seen, Tim Bradley was coming off the biggest win of his professional career. Sort of. Last June, Bradley scored a controversial split decision win over Manny Pacquiao. Controversial, to say the least. Virtually every media member in attendance at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas that night had Pacquiao winning, many quite comfortably.

But Bradley got the decision, his biggest win, his biggest payday. The criticism for the outcome was directed at the judges, not Bradley, who was lauded for battling arguably boxing's most feared fighter with two feet that were in such bad shape Bradley was forced to conduct the post fight press conference from a wheelchair. Most fighters would capitalize on the accomplishment, whether in a rematch with Pacquiao or another significant fight.

Bradley? He got nothing.

There were negotiations with Pacquiao for a rematch, but they didn't go very far. Pacquiao-Bradley was a (relative) dud in terms of pay per views, generating just over 900,000 buys, a disappointing number for Pacquiao, who routinely generated more than one million. In addition, the live gate raked in just $8.9 million with 2,070 tickets going unsold, which also was a disappointment. Top Rank officials were in no hurry to make the rematch.

But Bradley didn't just miss out on a Pacquiao fight. He missed out on any more fights in 2012. Soon after Pacquiao elected to face Juan Manuel Marquez, Bradley was offered a fight against Lamont Peterson. In 2009, Bradley outpointed Peterson in a lopsided decision. He was offered $2.3 million for the Peterson fight, a whopping number for a fighter without any discernable fan base and with a style that doesn't have fans flocking to see him.

Bradley, citing a general indifference towards fighting Peterson again, turned it down.

Months later, Bradley (29-0) is back. On March 16 he will defend his WBO welterweight title against Ruslan Provodinikov (22-1) on HBO. It's not the high profile fight Bradley had hoped for but he will see a familiar face on the other side of the ring: Freddie Roach, who will train Provodinikov.

"I am so glad to get into the ring," Bradley said. "At last my feet and ankles are OK, and physically I am ready. If Provodnikov attacks I may box. He has no real defense. I know he will be attacking. I already beat Freddie Roach's top dog so I don't know how much Freddie can help this guy. My focus now is that if a fighter is in the ring and in front of me, I will get rid of him. I will use my skills and my smarts."

Said Roach, "Only Bradley and two other guys believe [he beat Pacquiao]. I think Bradley's been out in the desert sun too long."

It will be more than nine months since the Pacquiao fight when Bradley gets back in the ring. But he doesn't expect to be that inactive again.

"I want to fight three or four times this year," Bradley said. "I have the hunger back. I always have to prove something to the people. I think I have to prove something to myself. I know my abilities and I know what I'm capable of doing, but I definitely want to make a statement in this fight."

Banks bummed out

It's been quite a few months for Johnathan Banks. In November, Banks was in Wladimir Klitschko's corner, filling in for the late Emanuel Steward in Klitschko's dominating decision win over Mariusz Wach. A week later, Banks upset highly touted heavyweight Seth Mitchell, knocking out the former Michigan State linebacker in the second round. Later, Klitschko told that Banks would be his full-time trainer, a coup for a journeyman fighter who has spent years in Klitschko's training camps.

The good luck ended this week though, when Banks broke his thumb in training and was forced to withdraw from his February 16 rematch with Mitchell.

"I was sparring on Monday and I felt something wrong with my right thumb while we were in the ring," Banks said. "On Tuesday, I went to a hand specialist here in Detroit and there is a broken bone in the thumb and he diagnosed that it would take six weeks to heal. I was having a terrific camp and was truly looking to facing Seth again. Hopefully the bout can be rescheduled soon and I can get back in the ring in the near future."

Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told that the fight is off the card headlined by Adrien Broner's lightweight title defense against Gavin Rees, despite heavyweight contender Bryant Jennings announcing he was willing to face Mitchell on short notice.

"If we cannot get [Wladimir] Klitschko, we'll keep calling out all the other heavyweights until one of them decides to fight Bryant," Jennings' promoter, Russell Peltz, said. "Today's fighters have to get in shape. The oldtimers stayed in shape and Jennings trains like the oldtimers. He's always ready. I spoke with [Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker] Eric Gomez and told him Jennings was ready, willing and able."

From the Mailbag

I was having a debate with some friends of mine and they said that Floyd Mayweather Jr. was better than Muhammad Ali. Of course, I disagreed with them. The reason why I feel that Ali is great is the level ofcompetition he had to face. Please give me your take.-- Jonathan, Pensacola

Floyd is a great fighter, Jonathan. Maybe the best defensive fighter of all time. But he isn't in the same class as Ali. Ali, in his prime, was the greatest of all time.

Who do you think Mayweather should fight next: Saul Alvarez, Robert Guerrero or Devon Alexander?-- Anthony, St. Louis

Got to be honest, Anthony: I'm not excited about any of them. Pacquiao's decline has really sucked the wind out of Floyd's fights, because even though it was maddening to never see Pacquiao and Mayweather in the ring, the possibility of it created a natural excitement for each of their fights. Now that it's off the table, I'm deflated. I guess if I had to choose I'd say Guerrero (most deserving), Alvarez (most high profile) and then Alexander, who has done nothing to warrant that level of a fight.

You catch Mike Tyson on Law and Order: SVU? I thought he did well, but that having Tyson, a convicted rapist, play a murderer who was victimized by a sexual predator?-- James, Wisconsin

I agree, James. It was an odd choice. I'm not against Tyson getting these acting opportunities, but to cast him as a character with that particular backstory only invites people to remember the horrible crime he was convicted of in 1992. Maybe that's what the producers wanted, to create a buzz. It didn't work. That episode drew only 5.2 million viewers, reportedly the smallest audience for any original, regularly scheduled episode of the series. It also finished last among the major broadcast networks in that time slot.

Ten Things I Think, and yes, I'm ripping off Peter King

1. I think Floyd Mayweather is using a little misdirection with his recent tweet that IBF welterweight champion Devon Alexander is the favorite to face him on May 4. Alexander pulled out of this month's scheduled title defense against Kell Brook with a biceps injury that, according to his manager/trainer, Kevin Cunningham, will sideline Alexander for six weeks. Certainly it's possible for Alexander to be ready for a May fight, but he would be promoting it with a significant injury, which you don't often see. Moreover, the IBF, the only respectable sanctioning body in boxing, would likely strip Alexander of his title, as he has already signed a contract to face Brook. I still believe Robert Guerrero is the most likely candidate to face Mayweather

2. I think I'm disappointed that we won't see Wladimir Klitschko-Alexander Povetkin in April. All signs are pointing towards Klitschko taking an interim fight in April, possibly against Francesco Pianeta (28-0-1), who despite a glossy record is nowhere near Klitschko's class. I'm not sure Klitschko-Povetkin is a great fight either, but at least there is some buzz about it. Klitschko-Pianeta sounds a lot like Klitschko-Marisuz Wach.

3. I think that, despite Robert Garcia's denials, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. ends up training with him. Garcia and Chavez Jr. have been linked for months, with it being known in the industry that Chavez Jr. was likely done with Roach, something Roach has known for some time. Nacho Beristain -- best known for his work with Juan Manuel Marquez -- is still a candidate, but most people I talk to expect Chavez Jr. to wind up with Garcia.

4. I think I'm probably as excited as you are to see a rematch between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado. The first fight was non-stop action, with Rios scoring a brutal knockout. Alvarado is an exciting fighter but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see a very similar outcome this time around.

5. I think Nonito Donaire-Abner Mares is going to become the next Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather. As Donaire and Mares rise in weight -- expect both to debut at 126-pounds at some point this year -- their popularity will grow. American boxing fans are like that: The heavier the weight, the more appealing they are. And both Donaire and Mares are tremendously skilled. Anything can happen, of course, but as it was with Mayweather and Pacquiao, odds are we will be wasting plenty of time and copy on whether or not Top Rank and Golden Boy can make this fight.

6. I think I'm starting to like the March 30 card in Monte Carlo, and not because Nobuhiro Ishida is growing on me. I outlined the details of the Monte Carlo Million Dollar Super Four here but a single elimination battle between four solid super middleweight contenders -- Edwin Rodriguez, Zsolt Erdei, Denis Grachev and Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna -- is a fantastic idea. In July, one fighter will emerge as a legitimate, deserving candidate to face Andre Ward, and that's great for boxing.

7. I think I still think Thomas Dulorme can become a star at the junior welterweight division. Dulorme was knocked out by veteran Carlos Abregu last October in a welterweight fight the 23-year old Dulorme clearly wasn't ready for. Dulorme fought at 140-pound early in his career and if he can comfortably make the weight, his size (5-foot-10) and skills will make him a beast.

In a release announcing his February 21 fight in New York -- opponent TBA -- Dulorme sounded eager to join the 140-pound division. "I feel much stronger and faster at this weight," Dulorme said. "We learned a lot from the Abregu loss. After that fight, I didn't get down on myself or discouraged, we just went back to the drawing board and began working on and learning new things. I plan on staying in my new division for the time being, but I would love another crack at Abregu down the line, as I know that next time would be very different."

8. I think the Tyson Fury-Steve Cunningham fight is going to get finalized soon, and I think it's an excellent fight. Fury needs a name opponent on his resume and Cunningham is a well known former cruiserweight champion who was robbed -- at least in my opinion -- of a win against Tomasz Adamek in December. Cunningham needs a big win to stay relevant at the heavyweight division, and defeating hulking Fury, a hot prospect, would do just that.

9. I think Mikkel Kessler and Carl Froch is going to be a good fight, but I think neither stands a chance against Andre Ward. Both Froch and Kessler had a chance against Ward, and both were crushed during the Super Six Tournament. Whether it's in the U.S. or Europe, Ward is still a vastly superior boxer. I'd like to see Ward move up to light heavyweight at the end of the year and look for some fresh opponents in the 175-pound division. There is no shortage of them.

10. I think I'm disappointed that I won't be ringside at Danny Garcia-Zab Judah on Saturday, but I'm glad the fight has been rescheduled. People have vastly different opinions on this fight, with some favoring Judah (speed, experience) while others think Garcia's power will put Judah down early. It's a good fight.

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