By Francisco Salazar
There were those amongst the 3,050 in attendance and millions abroad that felt Bradley did not warrant a decision over Ruslan Provodnikov on Saturday night. Others felt otherwise.
Then there are those fans who think these fights is what keeps the boxing pulse strong and could appreciate the heart both men displayed in the ring.
I would fall in that group. What I saw ringside was two fighters who took different paths to arrive to one magical night that I or others will not forget.
Now don’t get me wrong. Bradley had some incredible bouts, including his all-out war against Kendall Holt a few years ago. Bradley got off the canvas twice to eek out a decision win.
Then there was the controversial victory over Manny Pacquiao, something that was still the topic of discussion on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
Even though Bradley had been in competitive bouts, he had that stigma of not being an exciting fighter, as was the case in his victories over Devon Alexander and Joel Casamayor.
Provodnikov took a more difficult road. Born and raised in rural Siberia in Russia, he became an amateur star, then later building his reputation as a hard-nosed and hard-hitting junior welterweight.
Maybe Bradley wanted to live up to ring announcer Lupe Contreras’ catch phrase of “Quien es el mas macho.” Bradley came out at the opening bell wanting to take the fight to Provodnikov. It was exciting and great for media and fans, but bad for Bradley, as he was hurt on a number of occasions in the opening rounds.
The argument could be made Provodnikov should have been credited with at least a knockdown in each of the first two rounds.
Bradley controlled most of the middle rounds by staying on the outside, save for the few times he wanted to trade with Provodnikov, which would play into the Russian’s hands and would get him a tongue-lashing from trainer Joel Diaz.
As if the fireworks from earlier in the fight did not satisfy the appetites of fight fans who could not believe what they were watching, Provodnikov did his best to live up his nickname of the “Russian Rocky.”
Provodnikov stunned Bradley enough in the last two rounds, even dropping the valiant Bradley, who did not sit on his lead on the scorecards, to the canvas. Bradley managed to get up and finished the round on his feet.
Although Bradley got the unanimous decision, the argument could be that both fighters won on that cold evening at the outdoor venue that has seen its fair share of brutal toe-to-toe wars.
Both fighters won significant financial purses and will more than likely fight again on premium networks.
Bradley got rid of the label of not being an exciting fighter. Although he was reckless at times, he hung in there with the hard-hitting Provodnikov, often making us wonder how he was able to keep himself upright despite receiving devastating punches.
Fight fans would not mind seeing a rematch, but Top Rank, who promotes Bradley, may want to see the fighter from Palm Springs fight the winner of the Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado fight on March 30th.
Prvodnikov, who is promoted by Banner Promotions, not only became an instant hit with those fight fans who criticized the match up against him and Bradley. Although Provodnikov had one defeat (against Mauricio Herrera) going into the Bradley fight, he may not have been given much of a chance because he was not well known or had fought most of his bouts on ESPN2.
Not to mention, Provodnikov was coming up in weight from 140 pounds to challenge Bradley for the WBO welterweight title.
What this fight taught the boxing world, if anything, is to not judge certain fights when they are first made. Look what these two fighters gave the boxing world. No one left the venue unhappy or felt cheated.
Those that felt the wrong man won the fight, well, boxing has seen worse outcomes. However, give both men credit for what they did. Bradley came to fight and proved he is a talented fighter, who can brawl with the best of them. Provodnikov proved that the welterweight division has a legit contender, who could possibly become a world champion in his next fight.
Let these fighters rest six months and we will see what they have in the fall or the winter whether against each other or another fighter.
They both deserve that and then some.