Heading into his bout with Ruslan Provodnikov, you couldn't help but feel a pang of sympathy for Timothy Bradley.
Sure, he got a win over Manny Pacquiao that virtually nobody felt he deserved, but he was then the subject of such vitriolic and over-the-top criticism that you couldn't help but feel bad for the guy. After all, the decision may have been a bad one, but Bradley wasn't guilty of anything more than showing up and fighting.
Partly to erase the memory of that debacle, but also to increase his marketability with HBO, Bradley engaged Provodnikov at close quarters for much of their bout. This was completely out of character for a fighter who normally relies upon his speed and reflexes to outbox his foe.
The increased commitment to fighting, rather than pure boxing, led to an extremely dramatic and close fight.
In the exchanges, Provodnikov was clearly more in his element, and he tagged Bradley with more hard shots than we'd seen him swallow up to that point in his career. To his credit, "Desert Storm" largely held his own in close, and he thoroughly outboxed the Russian when he chose to keep distance.
With the fight seemingly in his favor, albeit narrowly, Bradley chose to engage in the final round and almost paid dearly for his decision. He was put on the canvas, and badly hurt, in the closing seconds, and had Provodnikov had more time, he might've scored the stoppage.
As it were, Bradley escaped with a narrow, but deserved, unanimous decision, and both men drastically increased their stock with spirited performances.