Last night (March 16, 2013) on HBO, unbeaten WBO Welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley set out to defend his newly-won 147-pound boxing belt, taking on heavy-hitting Russian Ruslan Provodnikov at The Home Depot Center, Carson, California.
When I set out to cover this fight, I did so with a sense of trepidation. Bradley -- someone with one of the most bizarre combinations of insane build and lacking power -- versus a mid-level welterweight? Bleh. The sacrifices I make for my job.
I haven't been so wrong since I thought it was a good idea to spar Jesse James Leija.
Bradley came out like a man on fire, trading with his hard-punching foe and firing off seven or eight punches at a time. Despite Provodnikov's power, "Desert Storm" consistently got the better of the high-speed exchanges.
Then Provodnikov landed his right hand.
Bradley -- notorious for his durability -- visibly wobbled, eventually falling in what was ruled a slip. As Bradley tried to rise, though, he fell once more. Ruslan poured it on as soon as he'd gotten his feet under him, but Bradley survived the round in impressive display of grit.
If the first round was a disaster, the second could best be described as cataclysmic. Provodnikov connected with heavy leather early, putting Bradley on rubber legs and laying into him with dozens of high-octane punches. Despite the onslaught, Bradley refused to wilt, launching salvos of his own even as Provodnikov forced his back to the ring and hit him with everything short of the kitchen sink.
Again, Bradley's legendary dome proved impregnable, withstanding the Russian's monstrous onslaught and making it to the bell.
For the next few rounds, it seemed like Provodnikov's desperation to end the fight early would be his undoing, as Bradley tightened up his attack and began connecting with long strings of solid punches. Provodnikov had apparently punched himself out, offering little in the way of resistance. Going into the final minute of the sixth round, Bradley looked fully in control and on his way to a clear decision.
Then, Provodnikov landed again.
This time, as Bradley's legs looked ready to give, Provodnikov went berserk, hurling wide punches like his life depended on it. Bradley, once again against the ropes, gave as good as he got in one of the craziest exchanges I have ever seen in the squared circle.
Again, though, Bradley survived, reigned in his craziness, and began to lay a steady stream of blows on Provodnikov, whose arms looked gassed and unable to gather the thunder the had brought so much success early. Bradley easily swept the next five rounds, entering the twelfth ahead on all scorecards.
Thing is, Provodnikov hits hard.
This time, Bradley couldn't stay up, getting blasted with repeated shots until, finally, Bradley's knee hit canvas with 10 seconds left. The champion rose as the bell rang, having survived an absolutely fantastic scrap and edging Provodnikov on the scorecards, rightly so.
If you weren't a fan of Bradley going in, I defy you to not respect the man after that performance. Both men showed great heart, true grit and primal warrior spirit. Well done.
For complete results and full play-by-play of "Bradley vs. Provodnikov" click here.