In 2012, "The Desert Storm" Timothy Bradley only saw action once, in a heavily shunned split-decision victory Manny Pacquiao. Facing seemingly fruitless death threats from infuriated boxing fans, Bradley hopes to open a new, hopefully brighter chapter in his prosperous career. Ruslan Provodnikov may be the opponent to ignite the flame once again. With his raw, physically imposing style of fighting, some believe he is drastically in over his head. But the wild card fighter from the Wild Card boxing gym is ready to triumph over the talented Californian sensation.
When I think of Ruslan Provodnikov, I think of a fan-friendly ESPN Friday Night Fights groomed brawler with reckless tenacity. Although the casual fan sees Manny Pacquiao's former sparring partner, I see a determined man who comes from Russia with gloves and no love for the careful timing and pinpoint boxing of Timothy Bradley. And if the very best Ruslan Provodnikov shows up in that ring, prepared to instinctively bombard Timothy Bradley with pressure from bell to bell, we may see a new champion.
Bradley must avoid becoming timid and sluggish, as he often can in fights. Provodnikov fights in surges of combinations highlighted by his hard, chopping right hands. Judges recognize that form of work and Bradley will have to be outsmarting him on the backfoot perpetually to avoid dropping tight rounds. When the chips are down, you have a masterful boxer in Bradley facing a forceful brawler in Provodnikov. Bradley has struggled through adversity against the powerful breed, but having the heart to overcome it has allowed his career to get this far. Provodnikov has the power to gain his respect, but placing the finishing blow or doing enough to edge the scorecards is a whole new daunting task.
Juan Manuel Marquez, Brandon Rios, and a rematch with Manny Pacquiao are just amongst the rapid discussions for Bradley's next fight after that. But against an all or nothing opponent like the Russian-born Provodnikov, it is best advised by a confident Banner Promotions and Wild Card gym that Bradley shouldn't overlook his opponent. At 29 years old with 29 straight wins, Bradley's career is just beginning, and on Saturday, a boost of adrenaline should be pumped into his career. But an Upset of the Year candidate is in the midst of all possibilities. You never know what will happen in the squared circle.
Tune in on HBO's Boxing After Dark at 10:15 PM EST to find out the result. A doubleheader featuring Bradley-Provodnikov and prospects Jessie Vargas-Wale Omotoso is on tap. After the fights, also tune in for a 30-minute special edition of the acclaimed fight lead-up show 24/7 Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado 2.
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