WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley will finally be making the first defense of a title many observers do not believe he rightfully earned when he faces Ruslan Provodnikov on March 16 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, California. His intentions to dominate the welterweight division, as claimed in yesterday's press conference at the Millennium Biltmore in Los Angeles, may not be an easy chore.
"There is nothing more exhilarating than defending your title for the first time. March 16 will be the first step in doing what I did as the junior welterweight champion, cleaning house," said Bradley, who held both the WBC and WBO light welterweight belts during his reign at 140 pounds.
Bradley (29-0, 12 KOs) has not fought since his controversial split decision victory over Manny Pacquiao last June. Unable to land a big name fight to capitalize on his huge upset over one of boxing's pound-for-pound bests, Bradley was essentially forced to settle on Provodnikov (22-1, 15 KOs). Although the Russian is a rough, offensive fighter ranked #3 by the WBO, a victory over him would not put the broom in Bradley's hand to start sweeping through the welterweight division.
For starters, Provodnikov is not a natural welterweight and is moving up from 140 to compete for the title. Unlike Bradley, who successfully captured the welterweight belt in his first world title attempt at 147, Provodnikov's resume as a light welterweight is not exactly worthy of a housewarming celebration. His most recent victories have come over the likes of DeMarcus Corley, David Torres and Jose Reynoso.
Assuming he can get past Provodnikov, Bradley's ability to step up the competition in the future so he can clean house at 147 will likely continue to be severely hampered given his association with Top Rank. Bitter rival Golden Boy Promotions currently handles several of the top fighters in the welterweight division and, as we have witnessed most recently with the Nonito Donaire-Abner Mares proposal, they will continue to find reasons to keep each other locked out.
Unless the respective promoters can start showing some neighborly love, Bradley will not be invited in to play with WBA champion Paulie Malignaggi, IBF beltholder Devon Alexander, Marcos Maidana, Robert Guerrero, Victor Ortiz, or light welterweights who may eventually move up in weight such as Danny Garcia, Amir Khan, Lamont Peterson or Lucas Matthysse.
"Tim cleaned out the junior welterweight division as champion, beating everyone. We are confident that he will perpetuate that accomplishment as welterweight champion," Top Rank president Todd duBoef said of Bradley at yesterday's press conference.
In order to do that, Top Rank will have to give Bradley a set of keys to the house. Otherwise, their talented champion will remain lonely and homesick, living among a pile of garbage.
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