REBOOT: Timothy Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov Preview


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Timothy Bradley will enter the ring for only the second time in 15 months—and for the first time since his controversial win over Manny Pacquiao last June—when he faces Ruslan Provodnikov at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, on Saturday. Innocence lost from the Pacquiao backlash can be partially reclaimed by a dominant showing tomorrow night.

The days when Bradley, 29-0-0-1 with 12 KOs, fought quality opposition three times a year seem like memories from a distant past. One has to harken back to 2009, when we saw him get off the canvas to chase down Kendall Holt, engage in a truncated fracas with Nate Campbell, and win an impressive, well-rounded decision over Lamont Peterson.

Since then, the only sparks in his career have emanated from brakes grinding his momentum to a standstill. A solitary bout—an underwhelming performance against Luis Carlos Abregu—defined Bradley’s 2010. The junior welterweight “showdown” against ballyhooed Devon Alexander in early 2011 was dreadful and ended with Alexander screaming “it burns!” after several headbutts and a cut. A worthless exhibition against fossilized Joel Casamayor followed and then came his infamous bout with Pacquiao.

The mainstream sports media only stands up and pays attention to boxing a few times a year these days: when either Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather, Jr., decides to fight somebody. That one of those rare instances was wasted on a decision roundly derided as a gross injustice roused everyone into a tizzy, and Bradley was awash in negative coverage for months afterwards. Such coverage was inflamed by that night’s HBO broadcast, featuring analysis saturated with dubious CompuBox stats, Harold Lederman’s excitable opinion, and Jim Lampley yelping every time Pacquiao threw a punch in Bradley’s vicinity.

Little about Bradley, Palm Springs, California, is eye-catching. He’s a short, squat fighter without explosive power. He doesn’t separate opponents from their senses. He’s quick, but fails to wow with crisp combinations. His punches are often looping, making his flurries look amateurish. And his personality isn’t spellbinding, abrasive, or polarizing. But a less-than-endearing style—combined with three years of inactivity, punctuated by fights with disappointing outcomes—obfuscates the fact that he’s an excellent prizefighter who is hard to defeat for a reason.

Ruslan Provodnikov, 22-1 with 15 KOs, is the man to accentuate Bradley’s strengths, a fighter aggressive enough to showcase Bradley’s defensive talent and ring IQ. Provodnikov, Beryozovo, Russia, has a stinging punch but telegraphs his attacks, leaving counter opportunities practically accompanied by red carpets and velvet ropes. Bradley’s deft foot and head movement makes him a master of inches, and the Palm Springs, California, native should comfortably maneuver around Provodnikov’s advances. An accompanying jab and determined body work will likely pronounce his speed advantages.

Nevertheless, Provodnikov isn’t easily deterred. Elusiveness alone won’t serve as handcuffs on the 29-year-old Russian’s desire to inflict harm, and Bradley, possessor of one knockout in his last 11 bouts, will have to provide something else to make Provodnikov think twice about reckless aggression. Otherwise, Provodnikov will be slinging salvos at the WBO titlist with no reverence, and the latter rounds could expose any rustiness or slippage in conditioning.

Provodnikov’s resume is undoubtedly flimsy, however, with faded Friday Night Fights luminaries as the only recognizable names he’s conquered. His punch and fortitude under Freddie Roach’s tutelage poses some danger to Bradley, but ultimately, Bradley’s in a different class. If Bradley can avoid a significant headbutt—something’s he’s managed to do in his last two bouts— Saturday night will likely serve as a reminder of why his talents earned more praise than contempt three years ago. At 29, his best years are passing in haste, and washing away the sour aftermath of the Pacquiao fight will require more activity and less discretion. This is a decent start.

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Tags: Featured Manny Pacquiao Popular Ruslan Provodnikov TIM BRADLEY

  • Jimmy Tobin

    Michael Nelson two weeks in a row? I’m pinching myself.

    Good stuff MN, Bradley should look himself against a FNF regular. I don’t anticipate any slippage in conditioning, because really, his commitment in that regard is part of what gets him over. Rust however, that I could see, and rust could produce sloppiness. A sloppy Bradley is more likely to bump coconuts. But however much Provodnikov is hyped up, I can’t see him troubling Bradley too much. You rightly point out that Bradley is a fine fighter, whatever people think of his win over Pacquiao. Having Roach in Provodnikov’s corner is just lipstick on a pig.

    I hope Bradley gets Marquez after, just to rub folks’ noses in it.

    • Michael Nelson

      Hey JT,

      Thanks man. CA’s cannolis game has been strong as of late. Yeah, I’ve seen some folks hype Prov’s chances because of his power. Coincidentally, they’re in the same camp that thought Pacquiao would splatter him within five rounds. I’m with you, Bradley busts him up in pretty entertaining fashion, because Prov won’t stop swinging. Hopefully the lack of butts against Pac and Casa represent a leaf turned.

      Bradley-Marquez would prompt a sea of tears from the usual suspects, but that’d be an excellent fight, and I have no idea who would win.

  • thenonpareil

    Hi MN,

    nice work.

    This here: Ruslan Provodnikov, 22-1 with 15 KOs, is the man to accentuate Bradley’s strengths, a fighter aggressive enough to showcase Bradley’s defensive talent and ring IQ.

    I’m not sure Provodnikov belongs in the ring at this level–I still remember him getting slapped around at times by guys like Jauregui and Herrera–but Bradley likely doesn’t have the power to dissuade his rushes. So maybe there will be a few entertaining spots. Provodnikov sure eats punches, though….

    I think Bradley (who has to be the P-4-P fantasy guy with the least buzz) will have to follow this up with another win in four or five months to get the momentum going, realistically. Considering how picky he is about fights, I doubt he’ll get things moving quickly again.

    • Michael Nelson

      Hey CA,

      Thanks. Back before Bradley and Nate Campbell were ‘bumping heads’ outside of courtrooms, they did a joint interview in which Campbell warned Bradley that his ‘take on all comers’ attitude wasn’t gonna last for much longer. Sage words, unfortunately. Hopefully his recent pledge to stay busy rings true.

      If we see a desperate Provodnikov, this could be pretty fun.

  • http://thelivingdaylights.co/ Andrew Fruman

    Hi MN, nice preview. I got to say though, even as a Bradley fan, I’m just not too excited about tonight’s fight. When our hopes of a competitive match-up rest on the favorite being rusty… well, that’s just not the sort of main-event we hope to see from HBO. I actually think Bradley has a good chance of a stoppage here, as Provodnikov is going to be coming right at him and he won’t be able to miss.

    • Michael Nelson

      Hey Andrew,

      Thanks, and agreed about the matchup. Not a scintillating year from HBO thus far. Or Showtime for that matter.

      Roach has been talking nonsense about Bradley a good three years now, and like you said, he’ll have a guy he can’t miss in front of him, so this is a good time as any to grab an elusive KO.