It really has been a long time since Timothy Bradley stepped into the ring.
Sure, it's technically only been nine months since his wild and controversial win over Manny Pacquiao in June 2012, but the 140- and 147-pound professional boxing divisions are practically unrecognizable today.
Pacquiao's boxing future is uncertain after getting wiped out by Juan Manuel Marquez, Danny Garcia blasted Amir Khan into fringe contendership and high-octane bruisers like Keith Thurman, Brandon Rios and Lucas Matthysse have turned the seven-pound rage into an intriguing warzone. Robert Guerrero -- a Lightweight for quite a while -- jumped up two weight classes to take out Andre Berto and stake his claim as the next challenger for Floyd Mayweather Jr.
So where does Bradley fit in?
The fight with Ruslan Provodnikov this evening (March 16, 2013), which takes place at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., airing live on HBO at 10:15 p.m. ET, isn't too terrible on paper -- he isn't a pushover, but the Russian is nowhere near Bradley's level. Provodnikov is a decent finisher, sure, but Bradley -- regardless of whether you think he beat Pacquiao or not -- has run over bigger and better opponents with relative ease.
This is a tune-up fight, plain and simple. Expect Bradley to outbox the brawler, pile up points and coast to a clear-cut decision victory over Provodnikov.
Perhaps more intriguing than the HBO World Championship Boxing main event tonight is what Bradley does in his next fight.
There are several solid fights for Bradley at 147 pounds, namely Guerrero, Mayweather or Adrien Broner if he stays at Welterweight after fighting Paul Malignaggi later this year. Meanwhile, 140 pounds is an absolute shark tank, just brimming with talented, up-and-coming exciting fighters, most of whom are promoted by Golden Boy.
That's worth noting because of the promotional rivalries that exist in boxing today. Bradley, a member of Bob Arum's Top Rank, could very well find himself in limbo once again. For now, though, we get a showcase of his prodigious talent against a game, but overmatched, opponent.
Let's just hope it's not setting a standard for times to come.