Coming into his fight with Ruslan Provodnikov on Mar. 16, 2013, Timothy Bradley Jr wasn’t exactly a fan favorite in boxing.
It wasn’t really Bradley’s fault. It’s just that nine months prior, Bradley had been on the right end of controversial scores against Manny Pacquiao; the “right” end if you were judges Robert Hoyle and Patricia Morse Jarman, anyway. It was the wrong end for the boxing public, who felt that the legendary and immensely popular Pacquiao had clearly won the bout.
The fight was seen as so clearly in Pacquiao’s favor, in fact, that Pacquiao passed on doing a rematch to settle the score, feeling he’d already proven he was better than Bradley, and that fans weren’t interested in paying PPV prices to see it again. He may have been right. Instead, Manny opted for a fourth money bout with Juan Manuel Marquez in Dec. 2012, which saw Marquez finally defeat Pacquiao via monstrous sixth round knockout.
Pacquiao’s decision left Bradley, then 29 years old and with a record of 29-0 (12 KO), without a dance partner, and the sour taste his name left in fans’ mouths wasn’t helping much.
In stepped 140-pound action star Ruslan Provodnikov, with a 22-1 (15 KO) career record and a reputation for being can’t-miss television among diehard fans.
At what was then known as the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. — a venue that has become known for great fights — Bradley and Provodnikov absolutely beat the crap out of one another for 12 full rounds in an HBO main event.
Bradley, it seemed, was fighting concussed from the second round on, having seemingly been knocked down in the first, which referee Pat Russell blew and called a slip. Provodnikov had the defending WBO 147-pound titleholder rocking and reeling in the second, but the hard-headed Bradley refused to give in, and fought back enough to keep himself alive.
Bradley was able to box effectively enough to earn a very narrow win on the judges’ cards, but he was hurt repeatedly by the relentless Provodnikov, and was dropped in the 12th. Even when Bradley was winning rounds, Provodnikov was leaving a mark. It was a vicious fight that won Ring magazine’s 2013 Fight of the Year award, as well as the Ali-Frazier Award from the BWAA that year, and stands as one of the best, most grueling fights of the last decade.
And Tim Bradley earned himself a measure of respect from at least some fans who had spurned him after the Pacquiao controversy.
Bradley and Pacquiao, of course, would go on to fight twice more, in 2014 and 2016, with Pacquiao winning both fights by decision. He retired after the third fight with Pacquiao in 2016 and now works as a good analyst for ESPN boxing broadcasts.
Provodnikov smashed Mike Alvarado seven months later to win his first and only world title, back at 140 pounds, before being upset in June 2014 by Chris Algieri. He went 2-2 in four more bouts, and also hasn’t fought since 2016, when he lost to John Molina Jr. Recently, it was reported that he’s considering a comeback.