By Cliff Rold
An old commercial adage: you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
An old saying: Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
A counter to both: WBO Welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley.
Bradley started off nicely. He went overseas to upset Jr. Welterweight titlist Junior Witter, got off the floor to unify titles against Kendall Holt, and engaged in a crowd pleasing technical brawl with Lamont Peterson.
Peterson closed 2009. Too bad for Bradley that the biggest parts of his public profile growth have come since. In boxing, it’s always a game of new first impressions as the quest for larger platforms and more audience is pursued.
In the most watched fight of his career, Bradley gave an honest effort and appeared to come up short against one of the modern greats in Manny Pacquiao. Getting the decision anyways has done him no favors. Now, almost a year later, Bradley has a chance to make a new first impression and leave fans, for the first time since the Peterson battle, fondly awaiting his next move.
And lest we forget, the game and always entertaining Ruslan Provodnikov is coming to win.
Let’s go to the report card.
Title: WBO Welterweight (2012-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: WBC Light Welterweight (2008-09, 2 Defenses; 2011); WBO Light Welterweight (2009-2012, 4 Defenses)
Weight: 146.6 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 142.1 lbs.
Hails from: Palm Springs, California
Record: 29-0, 12 KO, 1 No Contest
Rankings: #2 (SecondsOut), #3 (BoxingScene, ESPN, BoxRec), #4 (Transnational Boxing Rankings Board), #7 (Ring)
Record in Major Title Fights: 7-0, 1 KO, 1 NO Contest
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 8 (Miguel Vazquez UD10; Junior Witter SD12; Kendall Holt UD12; Nate Campbell NC3; Lamont Peterson UD12; Devon Alexander Tech. Dec. 10; Joel Casamayor TKO8; Manny Pacquiao SD12)
Current/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 146.6 lbs.
Average Weight - Five Most Recent Fights: 140.55 lbs.
Hails from: Beryozovo, Russia
Record: 22-1, 15 KO
Rankings: #10 at 140 lbs. (Ring)
Record in Major Title Fights: 1st Major Title Opportunity
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 2 (Javier Jauregui TKO8; DeMarcus Corley UD12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Bradley B+; Provodnikov C+
Pre-Fight: Power – Bradley B-; Provodnikov B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Bradley B+; Provodnikov C-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Bradley A; Provodnikov B+
Purpled and scuffed is usually a good way to describe the face of Provodnikov after a fight. It might not be the best thing for his health, but it’s great for fans. One of the better T.V. fighters of recent vintage as only lost once to the rugged Mauricio Herrera. So why is Provodnikov a prohibitive underdog here?
The reason is simple. Despite the negative impression generated in fights like Devon Alexander and Pacquiao, most fans still take for granted that Bradley is quite good. One of those fighters who is good at many of the little things rather than being spectacular in one category, Bradley has an opponent in front of him that he hopes will rehab his image.
Provodnikov, a relentless pressure fighter, isn’t a defensive gem. He’s going to get hit. To have a shot in this encounter, he has to force Bradley into exchanges where he can give some for what he’s taking. Provodnikov isn’t a one-punch killer, but he is clearly heavy handed. If he can keep those hands on Bradley, he has a shot here.
It might be a long one. Bradley has underrated speed and is an effective body puncher. His head movement is sound and, yes, he’s willing to dig into the bag of tricks to keep foes from getting any offensive momentum going. He can win this by boxing, tying, spinning, and grinding out rounds.
Will he want to do more to impress and give the Russian challenger chances?
Bradley might, at least in spots, but so far Bradley has shown a sound beard. Even if Provodnikov lands some, it’s not likely he’ll land enough to win the rounds he needs for the upset. He’ll make it a fight though. Provodnikov has been far too written off in this bout. Sure, he’s an underdog, but he’s tough as nails and has yet to be embarrassed by anyone. No, his foes haven’t been the same level as Bradley’s, but this is his one big shot. Expect him to leave it all out there. Bradley is a little too good to lose, but Provodnikov will show he belonged in the ring before hearing that a closer than expected decision got away.
Report Card Picks 2013: 5-5
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com