Attempting to explain the merit of boxing to the unenlightened, regardless of how well conveyed, rarely bears fruit. The occasional success depends heavily on getting your audience to accept the simple fact that there is more to boxing than meets the eye.
From this point forward it becomes possible to explain, for instance, that boxing can be seen as a microcosm of life and its challenges; an example of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Or that having a favorite boxer doesn't just mean appreciating their capacity as an athlete but identifying with their character as a fighter.
The list of boxing's veiled intricacies goes on.
On Sunday in Carson, Timothy Bradley turned in a performance that transcended sport and served to remind observers of boxing's unequaled propensity to reflect the most human of struggles. For Bradley the fight against Ruslan Provodnikov meant far more than the chance to defend his WBO Welterweight title, rather it offered him the opportunity for redemption. An objective far more elusive than victory. Especially in boxing.
Bradley sought redemption for failing to engage Manny Pacquiao in their June 2012 bout but even more-so because, despite the lackluster performance, the judges awarded Bradley a split decision victory. Bradley himself has admitted that he probably would have been better off had he lost that fight. Following the bout he received death threats from fans, found it near impossible to secure any high profile opponents and watched the luster of his star fade dramatically. Whether the backlash was warranted is of secondary concern, the central issue is Bradley's desire to atone for his previous display and his understanding of exactly the kind of performance required to do so.
Redemption in boxing is notoriously hard to attain. It is not necessarily achieved through victory, rather it is earned in much the same way it is beyond the boxing ring; Admission of guilt, display of remorse and most importantly the desire to make amends for your actions. Bradley's performance against Provodnikov proved conclusively that he is not the fighter we saw in the ring against Pacquiao. Rather he is the special kind of fighter who has the audacity to go out of his way to prove a point.
The fight against Provodnikov needn't have been so difficult for Bradley. Had he fought at a distance and used his athleticism and speed to score points the fight may have gone the way of most other Bradley fights. Yet, he appeared to consciously engage Provodnikov at all costs in an attempt to express his remorse for backing down against Pacquiao.
There was not a single trace of cowardice in Bradley's approach to his last fight and what is more remarkable is his decision to fight with such reckless abandon when he could easily have elected for a safer option. To put yourself on the line in such a manner is one thing when it's all you know, but to dismiss the easier alternative in favor of an immeasurably more difficult option takes the kind of courage the boxing public had decided Bradley did not have.
The extent of the fallout from the Pacquiao flop may have been warranted. There is, however, no room to dispute the success of Bradley's shot at redemption.