By Luis Sandoval
Home Depot Center, Carson, California - Timothy Bradley (30-0, 12KOs) used up every ounce of his body to win a twelve round unanimous decision over Ruslan Provodnikov (22-2, 15KOs) to retain his WBO welterweight crown. Bradley was hurt in round one, nearly stopped in round two, hurt in round five and almost gone in round twelve. The scores were 114-113, 114-113 and 115-112.
There will be lots to talk about amongst the boxing community as this fight provided some of the best action tha we’ve seen this year, and both men displayed great heart and determination.
Fans were treated to an unexpected war as Bradley uncharacteristically was more offensive than we’ve seen him in the past and it backfired almost immediately as it was Ruslan who benefited from the change in style. In the very first round Bradley was hurt during an exchange by a hard right hand by Provodnikov. Bradley appeared to go down, but unfortunately for Provodnikov referee Pat Russell mistakenly ruled it a slip - saving Bradley from losing a point and costing Provodnikov a draw on the scorecards.
The second round didn’t go any better for Bradley who continued to fight Provodnikov on the inside, exchanging and paying a high price as he was seriously hurt for the second time in the fight. These were tense moments for Bradley who appeared almost out in his feet but continued to throw back even though he was getting the worse of it. It looked and felt like Provodnikov was one punch away from ending things but Bradley miraculously made it out the round.
If Bradley was going to make a statement tonight someone forgot to tell him Provodnikov had the same idea as he was relentless in his attack and was fighting with great intensity. The crowd tried to get behind Bradley to start the third round as they chanted his name hoping to get the reigning WBO champion going and back into the fight. Bradley would finally use his jab and movement to ease Provodnikov’s pressure as the Russian simply smiled at him and continued to press on.
Bradley’s workrate began to be the difference as his punches may not have been harder than Ruslan’s, but he was throwing more of them. Ruslan fought like a guy who was willing to take a few punches in order to land one or two - and you got the sense that anytime Ruslan landed something the fight was capable of changing in an instance; and it did a few times.
In the sixth round, Provodnikov’s steady pressure would pay off once again as he would trap Bradley in a corner and another hard right hand would put Bradley on unsteady legs. Bradley appeared on the verge of going down again as Ruslan unloaded everything he had. With Bradley pressed against the ropes and throwing his punches with almost nothing on them, Provodnikov was throwing his own and coming within moments of putting Bradley down.
It was amazing to witness Bradley's ability to take some of the shots he took and not go down. Even when he tried to fight the right style, Provodnikov still found ways to get to the champion. As for Provodnikov, if anyone thought he would be at any disadvantage going up seven pounds to take this fight, those worries should’ve been put to rest as Provodnikov’s power carried over with ease.
Bradley showed heart and he continued to fight fire with fire but also began using his legs a bit more. By round eight, Bradley was moving more than he had before with Ruslan following closely and looking for his next opportunity. By the tenth round, it was Bradley’s activity versus Ruslan’s harder and more damaging shots.
Each round provided great action but things really reached a fever pitch in the twelfth and final round as Ruslan almost closed the show in dramatic fashion. Another right hand would put hurt Bradley. And this time he would have no choice but to succumb to Ruslan’s attack as he finally went down with just a few seconds left in the fight. He would beat the count as the bell would ring and prevented Provodnikov from finishing things and the outcome was left to the judges.
In the end, the judges had it close but it was Bradley who would keep his title and perfect record and was awarded a very tight unanimous decision.
Even in defeat, Provodnikov gave a great account of himself as he fought hard for twelve rounds and gave Bradley some of the scariest moments of his career. His stock rises, while fans and media members alike are already clamoring for a rematch.
For Bradley, he gave the boxing community a fight that can be appreciated and showed a lot of heart in taking on a tough foe. Where he goes from here remains to be seen but you have to appreciate the effort and the performance he and his opponent put on tonight.