Timothy Bradley (29-0, 12 KO) returns to the ring to defend his WBO welterweight title on Saturday night. His opponent is the untested—but intriguing—Ruslan Provodnikov (22-1, 15 KO) of Russia.
Bradley scored perhaps boxing's biggest win of 2012 when he upset Manny Pacquiao in June. Despite officially defeating a legend, Bradley has not reaped the benefits of scoring such a major win.
Many believed Pacquiao deserved the decision, but Bradley was awarded the victory.
Because of the controversial decision, you could call the aftermath more of a detriment for Bradley than a positive. In this fight, he seeks to move past the controversy and on to the next chapter.
Here's how you can catch the action, as well as some deeper analysis and my prediction.
Where: Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
When: Saturday, 10:15 p.m. ET
Live Stream: HBOGO
The Book on Bradley
Redemption from Victory
It's rare when winning a fight results in less respect than losing it, but that is likely the case for Bradley post-Pacquiao.
Not only did fans and many in the media question his split-decision win over Pacquiao, some wayward fans took it even further.
Bradley told USA Today:
I didn't get any credit after the Pacquiao fight whatsoever. People talked about me and my style, how boring (it is). Some people talked about my wife, talked about my kids.
I've had some people send me death threats because I won. I had a lot of people say I should give the belt back.
I'm one of the few who actually scored the Pacquiao fight for Bradley, and I predicted he would win before the fight. I can attest to some of the over-the-top comments from overly emotional folks on Twitter, etc.
I caught a bit of that backlash, so I can only imagine what it must have been like for the guy who actually won the fight. That controversy has created an unfair obligation for Bradley to re-prove himself to the boxing world.
What's been lost in all of this is that Bradley is undefeated in his career, and he hasn't faced bums. He beat Kendall Holt, Lamont Peterson, Joel Casamayor, Miguel Vazquez and Devon Alexander before he beat Pacquiao.
But he still finds himself devoid of the respect he deserves. Defeating Provodnikov won't give him his props entirely, but it is a step in the right direction.
In the Ring
Bradley's only real weakness is his lack of punching power—his rather modest 12 KOs is a testament to that. That said, he is an accurate and effective puncher.
He's at his best on the inside, and he's dangerous as a counter-puncher during exchanges. He may not drop or finish opponents, but his shots have enough zing to make fighters respect him.
Bradley has been called a dirty fighter by a few (Boxing Scene), as his head has come into play in multiple fights. Whether there are bad intentions behind these head butts we can't say for sure, but that element serves as a bit of intimidation in Bradley's favor.
He has a very solid chin and overall good boxing fundamentals and instincts. Despite the controversy and feelings about the decision in the Pacquiao fight, no one can dispute the toughness he showed.
Here are highlights from the Bradley-Pacquiao bout, and they capture both fighters' good moments in the bout. But it also captures the fact that during Bradley's good moments, the commentators are mostly silent.
Not only did he go 12 rounds with one of the most feared punchers in the sport, he did so on two bum ankles after injuring himself in the fight. This is a top-10 pound-for-pound fighter in the sport and an entertaining performer in the ring.
But like it or not, he has to prove that again. Bradley looks ready—check him out here doing mitt work.
The Book on Provodnikov
Looking to Make His Name
What is your perception of Bradley?
This is Provodnikov's biggest and best opportunity. He has been a sparring partner with Manny Pacquiao, but as the featured attraction, none of his other fights compare.
Perhaps as a former member of Pacquiao's camp, he may want to obtain some retribution for what many have called a "bad" decision. If Provodnikov can score a win over Bradley, it would vault him into the picture with prominent welterweights.
As title-holder he'd have some drawing power, and his style is crowd pleasing. This could be the beginning of the 29-year-old's ascent in the sport.
He's really in a no-lose situation, as most probably don't give him a shot at winning. Even if he loses, but makes a good account of himself, he could earn himself another payday and opportunity.
In the Ring
Conditioning will likely never be a problem for Provodnikov. He stays in great physical shape and he is a total gym rat. Take a look at him in a workout for the fight with Bradley.
What Provodnikov's game does lack is defense. He is a pure masher that generally depends on head movement—with a very low guard—to avoid his opponents' punches.
In short, he's willing to take some to give some. The problem with that strategy is that he isn't especially quick. His hand speed is only average, and he's more of a plodder.
If fighters stand in front of him, he can be very dangerous, though. Take a look at him demolishing Jose Reynoso in his most recent fight. The KO occurs during the second round.
Provodnikov may run into issues with fighters who move a lot and change angles.
Though Provodnikov is a hard puncher, he seems tailor-made for Bradley to pick apart. Look for the champion to out-box and out-class Provodnikov en route to an easy unanimous decision.