What fans witnessed last night was not just an exciting Timothy Bradley fight (!), but unquestionably what will go down as one of the most dramatic and brutal contests of 2013. Those familiar with Ruslan Provodnikov knew this was a good fight on paper, but no one predicted Bradley would come out and seek to brawl with this power-punching Russian (God bless him for it). The boxing world is still buzzing, and unfortunately for Tim, this bout also had a scoring controversy that put some damper on this thrilling battle.
WHAT GOT INTO BRADLEY?!: In the leadup to this fight, Bradley claimed that his technique had massively improved and we’d see a marked improvement in punching power. That, coupled with his other promise to not go 12 rounds with Provonikov, caused him to come out guns blazing with quick combinations inside and repeated jabs to the head and body. Provodnikov walked through them, and Bradley obliged him with more punishment inside with hooks to the body.
Bradley’s issue was lingering too long inside, and Provodnikov hurt him badly with a wild right hand. Bradley was on queer street immediately and soon hit the canvas. It was ruled a slip, but that didn’t stop Bradley from doing an impressive Trevor Berbick impersonation and falling back over. To his credit, Bradley showed a huge heart in staying uprght and exchanging as Provodnikov unleashed a frightening array of power shots with Bradey trapped on the ropes. The exact same sequence repeated again in the second round (minus the missed knockdown), with Bradley boxing well until being caught by another big Provodnikov hook.
Bradley barely made it out of this one, and survived on nothing but heart and instincts as this one was just a solid punch or two from being over.
CRUCIAL SCORING MISTAKES: Unfortunately for Provodnikov, the scoring of the aforementioned two rounds factored heavily into his narrow defeat on the scorecards (113-114 twice and 112-115). If referee Pat Russell had correctly ruled the knockdown in the first round, Provodnikov would have at least earned a draw. Or even better, if the judges had given him credit for a 10-8 second round (which there’s a strong case he deserved even without the knockdown as badly as he had Bradley hurt), he’d have received a narrow win when you add in his dramatic work on Bradley to secure the knockdown in the 12th.
PROVODNIKOV’S STAMINA BETRAYS HIM: What hurt Provodnikov’s case was that there were at least four rounds where he did absolutely nothing. After throwing so much in the two opening rounds, he literally had nothing left in the third and simply let Bradley tee off with combinations while he recovered. Bradley would take rounds 3-5 like this before Provodnikov would catch and him hurt again in the sixth.
When Bradley used to footwork to move and fight on the inside, Provodnikov could do nothing with him. The powerful Russian’s face was being rearranged with the constant barrage of shots, but he flashed a ghoulish smile at Bradley and kept coming. Bradley’s massively outworked and outlanded Provodnikov with clean shots in rounds 7-10, but I thought Provodnikov delivered significant damage in the 11th (courtesy of that big right hand). The thudding left and right hooks that forced Bradley to take a knee in the waning moments of the 12th, had Provodnikov finishing the fight strongly.
THE WRONG STRATEGY, BUT THE SAME BRADLEY: Boxing is all about adjustments, and after those hellacious opening rounds Bradley found a winning strategy by moving and boxing Provodnikov at a distance. However, that’s not Tim’s style — he loves to mix it up inside and break guys down with his workrate. That’s what enabled Kendall Holt to drop him twice with big counters in their fight, and why Provodnikov had him out on his feet on no less than 4 separate occasions.
We should also keep in mind that Bradley was coming off a nine month layoff in part due to feet injuries. Bradley is always ripped, but also he looked softer in the middle than previous fights. Add all that together, and that’s likely why he couldn’t keep up the constant movement.
REMATCH?: Well, Ruslan Provodnikov has certainly earned one. He was very bitter at the decision, saying Bradley never hurt him. That’s not completely true, as a few body shots stopped him dead in his tracks. But Provodnikov was never out on his feet or on the verge of a stoppage loss. My gut tells me the rematch would be nowhere near as good as the first with Bradley making sure he spends the majority of the fight on the move and clinching when Provodnikov traps him. Nonetheless, this performance ensures he’ll be back one way or another. Can you imagine Provodnikov and Brandon Rios going at it?
BRADLEY STILL GETS NO RESPECT: With an obvious concussion after the fight, Bradley still had the misfortune of being booed afterward and in front of his hometown fans no less (the same ones that delivered a few “Bradley!” chants during the fight). People there were not happy with the decision. My colleague Jeandra LeBeauf of Bad Culture was there ringside and vehemently disagreed with the decision. I have to admit, I was yelling at my TV and wanted a Provodnikov KO bad in that 12th round.
Let us remember though that it takes two great performances to create an awesome fight, and the last thing people should have been doing is booing Bradley.
VARGAS OUTSMARTS OMOTOSO: The undercard featured a solid fight with Jessie Vargas keeping his undefeated record via a unanimous decision win over Wale Omotoso. Vargas appeared to be in big trouble through the first three rounds — Omotoso had dropped him on a body shot and couldn’t miss with counter right hands. But Vargas adjusted by working stiff jabs and 1-2s that keep Omotoso on the outside. The fight slowed down and Omotos got buzzed bad and nearly stopped off a right hand counter. In addition, Omotoso’s own right was now falling short. He wasn’t happy with the decision, but he never adjusted to Vargas’s changes. He had only himself to blame.
So what’s your take? Did Bradley redeem himself or get another undeserved decision? Watch the full fight HERE if you missed it.