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A Ruthless Scrutiny: Timothy Bradley W12 Ruslan Provodnikov

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The outcome was as expected: Tim Bradley won a unanimous decision over Ruslan Provodnikov last night at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. But the expectation that Bradley, openly frustrated with his career, was being given a palliative in Provodnikov was quickly turned on its ear. Over the course of twelve harrowing rounds, Bradley was repeatedly pushed to the threshold of his resolve by the incorrigible Provodnikov. However much the boxing community may have considered Bradley an imposter on the throne, Provodnikov treated him like a king, and, against such distinguished opposition, looked to overthrow royalty.

Provodnikov nearly accomplished this feat in the first round. Wielding the faster hands, Bradley, Palm Springs, California, had early success jabbing and bounding in and out with combinations. As the round wore on, however, Bradley, perhaps looking for catharsis as much as blood, invited a number of perilous exchanges before Provodnikov snatched his equilibrium with a nasty right hand. A barrage of left hooks and right hands followed, sending the discombobulated Bradley to the canvas, where referee Pat Russell ruled the knockdown a slip. Only a flush blow away from a stoppage, Provodnikov was unable to end the affair.

The second round saw Bradley tempt calamity again. No doubt inspired by his early success, Provodnikov, Beryozovo, Russia, walked through the incoming fire and landed a ruinous right hand. A left hook crunched into Bradley’s jaw as he retreated into the ropes, and again a stoppage loomed. Rather than hold, Bradley chose to retaliate, sloppily winging at his tormentor while Provodnikov’s battering left Bradley grasping for his consciousness. Russell inched closer to the action but allowed Bradley’s conditioning to carry him to the bell. Seated on his stool between rounds, having been out on his feet against an opponent who refused to cooperate, Bradley brought to mind a line from Life and Times of Michael K: “He did not know what he expected to happen; whatever it was, it did not happen.”

As he had done against Kendall Holt and Manny Pacquiao, Bradley, 146 1/2, recovered from the unexpected, and his superior class dictated the action for much of the remainder of the fight. After the near- disastrous reminder that he is never the bigger puncher, Bradley fell back on the poise and athleticism that have allowed him to overcome this lack of power. He explored the boundaries of the canvas, stung with his jab, and dug mercilessly to the body; when he felt the ropes, rather than throw three and four punch combinations, Bradley unloosed a scoring 1-2 and ducked out of harm’s way. Provodnikov, 146 1/2, began to cooperate, pursuing Bradley without punching, waiting for exchanges rather than forcing them himself, and getting tagged flush by a disturbing number of dissuading blows. His face swelling, left eye sliced open, Provodnikov was warned by trainer Freddie Roach that, barring improvement, Roach would stop the fight.

And yet, a sense of dread lingered in Bradley’s corner. Only a few rounds removed from trainer Joel Diaz’ own threat to halt the proceedings, with the tenuously controlled chaos producing a perplexed look on their man’s puffy visage, there was genuine cause for concern. Provodnikov remained dangerous throughout the fight, complementing his early assault—a pounding Bradley never shook off—with enough brain-rattling blows to prevent his opponent from wresting complete control of the fight.

In the twelfth, Provodnikov, 22-2 (15), went for broke. Stepping inside the trajectory of Bradley’s tired arms, he slugged his fading foe with a left hook that liquified his bones—had Bradley stopped moving he would surely have dropped. With ten seconds left in the round, a right hand sent the scrambling Bradley to the canvas. Taking advantage of the count, Bradley would remain on his knee until there were mere seconds left in the contest. The proud fighter from Palm Springs finished the fight on his feet. So did the crowd. Scores read 115-112 and 114-113 twice for Bradley; a smattering of boos greeted the decision. Such inarticulate braying is a testament to how close the fight was and to how stupid large groups of people can be.

Bradley, 30-0-0-1 (12), had been a bit of an enigma heading into Saturday’s contest. The fallout from the Pacquiao fight—including death threats from the constituency of mouthbreathers who have long jockeyed for majority representation among Pacquiao fans—had Bradley seemingly spiting himself. Was he punishing himself for his naiveté, for placing his hopes in meritocracy? Was he, like Clamence in The Fall, left with a sense of powerlessness so severe that he turned on himself just to feel his own agency? Whatever rationale lead him to stall his career also placed him in Provodnikov’s sights, where, under ruthless scrutiny, he put the past nine months behind him.

A rematch is the obvious next step for both men. Juan Manuel Marquez, Manny Pacquiao, and the winner of the rematch between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado would all make for entertaining fights against Bradley. Provodnikov, who may not have earned his first appearance on HBO but certainly deserves an invitation to return, could be trusted to try and decapitate any of these men. Even in defeat, he made his mark.

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Topics: Ruslan Provodnikov, Timothy Bradley

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  • Michael Nelson

    Great stuff, JT. It was fascinating not only to see blistering action, but see a man who has been fairly defensively responsible his whole career say “fuck it”. Even as a Bradley fan, I rolled my eyes at his tears in the HBO bit before his walk-in, but clearly that pain was real if it drove him to fight like a maniac. I hope it’s a one time deal. At least against Russian behemoths.

    As for Provodnikov, any number of matchups would have me salivating.

    • Jimmy Tobin

      Hi MN; thanks.

      Yeah, the build up was cringe worthy, but at least it was genuine. Bradley did not fight like himself, and it almost cost him. Shit, the residuals of getting punched in the head for thirty minutes AFTER suffering a concussion will probably cost him permanently.

      He’s has made some foolish decisions, but I can’t deny being a big Bradley fan. As a fan, I hope he puts this insane strategy to bed. I can only imagine what Rios or Marquez would do to a recklessly aggressive Bradley. Of course, the scrappy bastard might outlast those guys too.

      • Michael Nelson

        Because of how much it hammered home the brutality of what we had just witnessed, Bradley’s candid post fight interview was uncomfortable to watch. As was the video of him walking gingerly to his chauffeur for the night: an ambulance. You’re right, he got shit kicked for 30 minutes after a concussion, and that’s a disturbing thought. But it’s the sport we love, and conflicted feelings come with from time to time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aero.pineda Jan Aero S. Pineda

    If Bradley went toe-to-toe against Manny, he won’t survived the PACMAN’s onslaught. He just went on running against Manny and he paid the the price by getting a wheelchair after the fight.

  • scott christianson

    Hey Jimmy,

    Man, what a fight. And to think some assholes boo’d. As brutal a victory as I can remember. Rarely after a great fight, with good scoring would I rather be the loser, but the accumulated punishment Bradley took was almost impossible to explain. How could someone have withstood that? Was never a fan of Bradley, whether it be his career decisions or his selective use of his destructive dome (which has been absent his last 2 fights), I never liked him. Did a 180 after this fight. He stood and traded punches with a puncher to make the fight as exciting as possible, opposite to his usual strategy in fights, when he didn’t have to. I’m now a fan and look forward to his next bout, hopefully he’s able to capitilize on this W and be bit more active, although he certainly deserves a vacation after that fight. Provo, love grinders like him. Him vs the loser of Rios-Alvarado 2 works for me. Really enjoyed the writeup JT.

    • Jimmy Tobin

      Hi Skillz,

      I agree: you can question the decision, but that’s like not seeing the forest for the trees. We were treated to an excellent fight Saturday, if Bradley was looking to make amends for whatever things people held against him, he did it. And he said he was going to. Lots of people promise carnage but don’t follow through; Bradley, who isn’t a puncher, swapped leather with a banger, while suffering from a concussion. People wanna boo that? Fuck ‘em. Let them watch Hopkins-Cloud. Bradley was what it’s all about Saturday, and if that hasn’t won a few people over, those people weren’t coming regardless of what he did.

      I would love to see Provodnikov against whatever is left of Alvarado. The concussion (I’m assuming Bradley had one, he looked cognitively absent after the second round) really altered the fight, so I’m not sure that Provodnikov is really a lethal as he looked. Seeing him against Alvarado would help us place him in the context of the division. Right now, even with the Bradley fight fresh in our minds, I think Rios, Marquez, Matthysse, are too much for him. Of course, those hypotheticals might not mean much, as I saw that Provo is staying at welterweight. I’d like to see him against Berto or Broner if that’s true. And Bradley again, obviously.

      Thanks for the kind words!

  • Jeddah_ofw

    The writer is an idiot and dont know boxing.