It has been nine months since Timothy Bradley has stepped foot into the ring after getting a controversial split decision victory over Manny Pacquiao last June to capture the WBO welterweight belt. With a resume that includes names such as Pacquiao, Devon Alexander, Lamont Peterson, Kendall Holt, Junior Witter and Miguel Vazquez, the undefeated Bradley will be making the first defense of his title against little-known Ruslan Provodnikov tonight at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California on HBO®. It will be an opportunity for the 29-year old champion to restore his image, gain some style points and regain career momentum.
Some of the turmoil Bradley (29-0, 12 KO's) has endured since his hand was shockingly raised on June 9, 2012 has been self-imposed. He did not ingratiate himself with fans following the hotly disputed decision over the Filipino star, bordering on arrogance in his defense of a deserved victory. One certainly does not expect him to admit he lost the fight, but some humility in light of the circumstances might have served him well in the bigger picture. In fairness, his own promoter essentially forced Bradley to defend himself as vigorously as he did amidst cries from Top Rank CEO Bob Arum for an investigation of the fight results by the Nevada attorney general.
Stylistically, Bradley has not attracted a wide enough fan base even though he possesses very good speed and employs solid combination punching. He's labeled as a dirty fighter who leads with his head, lacks punching power and is a classic "boxer". The two highest-profile bouts of Bradley's career left many unsold on the Palm Springs fighter despite the fact he was victorious in each: the Pacquiao debacle and the awful junior welterweight unification bout with Devon Alexander in 2011.
After Pacquiao refused a rematch this past Fall, Bradley found himself unable to attract a big-name opponent against whom he could defend his newly acquired belt. Part of this problem stemmed from the promotional battle between Top Rank and rival Golden Boy, but Bradley did not do himself any favors by turning down a big money fight with Lamont Peterson last year. Peterson subsequently went on to sign with Golden Boy (essentially eliminating him as a potential opponent in the future) and looked extremely sharp against Kendall Holt last month. It was the second time over the past two years that Bradley turned down a headlining role in a big-money bout (Amir Khan being the first),calling into question his business savvy and stunting his career growth.
Hence, Bradley recognizes that he must thoroughly impress against Provodnikov (22-1, 15 KO's) tonight.
“Every fight from here on out is a statement fight, especially coming after the Pacquiao fight,” Bradley said. “I am looking to make a statement in this fight and I am looking to damage this guy. I am looking to put this guy out. I don’t want to go 12 rounds with this guy. The longer he stays around the more confident he will get so I want to get him out of there as soon as possible.”
Merely beating an untested challenger who has been a recent fixture on Friday Night Fights and whose most notable wins came against faded fighters DeMarcus Corley and Emanuel Augustus will not be enough to shift Bradley in the direction he should be going. Provodnikov, who is moving up from 140 for this fight, is a flat-footed, straight-ahead fighter who does not provide any angles or movement, making him an easy target for the more athletic and technically skilled Bradley.
While he may have developed in these areas since serving as Pacquiao’s chief sparring partner during preparation for the Filipino's last two fights, the Russian is expected to revert back to his natural brawling style when he realizes he will not be able to outbox the more experienced and polished Bradley.
“This is going to be a fight to remember. Toe-to-toe, however long it lasts, I’m gonna' get the job done. That’s what I do. I win. That’s one thing you can always write about me: This kid is undefeated and he can fight and he can win. So that’s a good thing you can write about,” said Bradley.
Tonight, Bradley can start giving us some other positive things to write about.
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