Timothy Bradley was expected by most to win comfortably, and even those who expected the fight to be good entertainment couldn't have seen what was coming. Bradley managed to barely survive a hellacious assault from Ruslan Provodnikov, fighting concussed from round two onward, and having to get off the canvas at the end of the 12th round, winning on scores of 114-113, 114-113, and 115-112. BLH had it 114-113 for Bradley.
This is a fight that is going to be in the Fight of the Year race through the rest of 2013. When the year-end awards come in, don't be surprised if this hasn't been topped nine months later. Bradley and Provodnikov went to war tonight in Carson, California, electrifying a small but passionate crowd at the Home Depot Center.
Provodnikov (22-2, 15 KO) was getting to Bradley early and often with his left hook and a looping right hand that just couldn't miss in the first two rounds. In the first round, a knockdown should have been called on Bradley (which also would have made the result a majority draw), but referee Pat Russell totally blew the call and ruled it a slip. Replays were conclusive, even if new HBO talent Steve Weisfeld didn't want to go so far as to just say so. Harold Lederman, who had it 115-112 Bradley, was perfectly happy to call it what it was, however.
In the second round, Bradley (30-0, 12 KO) was rocked all over the ring, clearly out on his feet but managing to survive. That round, too, could have been scored a 10-8 but I personally did feel that Bradley fought back enough and did just enough to earn the nine rather than an eight.
Then, Bradley came alive, and was able to outbox Provodnikov for much of the remainder of the fight. When Bradley was in control, he was firmly in control, but Provodnikov hurt him frequently all night, and really gave Bradley a beating when it was all said and done. It often wasn't enough to give rounds to Provodnikov, but he made a mark in just about every round.
Bradley, to his immense credit, took some punishing blows, and somehow managed to stay on his feet until the very end. Though he'd wobbled several times during the fight, he wasn't officially down until the tail end of the 12th round, and even then, he'd survived a full minute of a Provodnikov onslaught, first getting badly hurt with about 50 seconds left in the fight, and then again with about 30 seconds late. With less than 10 seconds on the clock, Bradley finally went down, but he got to his feet and time expired.
The WBO welterweight titlist got through tonight by the skin of his teeth, but both of these fighters deserve huge respect for the show they put on, and the toughness and grit they each displayed.