Bradley survives Provodnikov in 12-round war
MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 1) Unbeaten American boxer Timothy Bradley Jr. fought a punishing 12-round war against unheralded challenger Ruslan Provodnikov of Russia, managing to do just enough to retain his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title via unanimous decision.
Provodnikov had Bradley in trouble in the first round, nearly knocked out the champion in the second, and forced him to take a knee in the 12th and final round.
But Bradley was in control of most of the middle rounds, battering Provodnikov’s face to earn a hard-fought 114-113, 114-113 and 115-112 decision Saturday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California (Sunday in Manila).
“I wanted to prove to the world that I’m a great fighter, I’m a great champion. I wanted to step up and fight anybody,” said Bradley, who fought – and won – for the first time since beating Filipino idol Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao back in June 2012.
Provodnikov, who served as Pacquiao’s primary sparring partner during his training camp for Bradley, very nearly did what the Pacman could not, as he repeatedly hurt Bradley with several right hands in the opening round.
Bradley went down in the first round but referee Pat Russell ruled it a slip, which wound up costing Provodnikov a draw in the scorecards.
In the second round, Provodnikov continued to get the better of Bradley on their exchanges on the inside. The American seemed to be out on his feet towards the end of the round, and Provodnikov seemed on his way to a knockout victory.
But Bradley managed to survive the round, while Provodnikov appeared to have punched himself out.
“I just wanted to close the gap. I wanted to see if he was all that inside. I wanted to get inside and see I could get my shots off, and he showed me right away that he was a very strong kid,” Bradley said.
Bradley went on to control most of the middle rounds, using his superior boxing skills to outwork Provodnikov.
There was still a tense moment for Bradley at the end of the sixth round, when the Russian unleashed a flurry that once again put Bradley on the brink of defeat, but the champion was saved by the bell.
After sustaining much damage in the early rounds, Bradley was able to set the pace in the middle and late rounds, but was stunned again in the 12th and final round.
Provodnikov battered Bradley for almost a minute and had the American in deep trouble with about 30 seconds to go. Bradley took a knee with around 10 seconds left to stop the onslaught, and got up on his feet as time expired.
“He’s the first opponent that rocked me, who took me the distance and actually hurt me. He’s the first guy to do that,” Bradley said of Provodnikov.
Bradley also predicted that Provodnikov will be a champion in the future, calling the Russian “the real deal.”
Meanwhile, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum sees greater things for Bradley after the show he put on.
“He has the world next, because now people say this guys is an entertainer, this guy goes out there and fights and entertains the public,” Arum said.
Bradley improved his record to 30-0, while Provodnikov sustained his second loss against 22 victories.