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Azad Championship Report - Bradley Hopes to Earn Style Points

(Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)
(Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)


The perception regarding Timothy Bradley - who faces Ruslan Provodnikov this Saturday night at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California (HBO 10:15 pm, ET/PT) - is that while a talented and accomplished prizefighter, he is among the most unentertaining and boring boxers around. A guy whose fights are filled with more clashes of heads than actual clean punching. Add the negative reaction to his controversial decision over Manny Pacquiao last June and Bradley has become one of the most derided fighters of this current generation.
 
But it wasn’t always this way.
 
In fact, not too long ago, Bradley was admired for his tough, blue-collar style of boxing and was quickly collecting major belts at 140 pounds. Just as quickly, he established himself as one of the premier fighters in the sport. And his bouts against the likes of Kendall Holt (when he got off the canvas from a vicious left hook early on) and the highly regarded Lamont Peterson were performances well-received by the public and the pundits. But the tide started to turn once he faced Devon Alexander in the ill-conceived bout at the Silverdome that was supposed to launch a new American superstar.

Instead, that fight was a bust, not only commercially but from a critical standpoint. The fight was a rather forgetful affair. It was dreary as the outlook in Detroit. And it seems that Bradley, while he has kept up his winning ways, has never been able to get his mojo back. It’s something he doesn’t disagree with. “Yeah, right; when I started fighting all the left-handers. Left-handed fighters do not make you look good at all,” said Bradley, who holds the WBO welterweight belt. “I can just tell you that and I’m glad I’m fighting a guy who comes straight forward, who loves to bang and he’s a right-hander. So I should be able to show my skills and definitely put on a show for the fans.”
 
Bradley needs to not just win this weekend but also entertain a bit because as you hear fans tell it, his fights are now as boring as the programming on C-SPAN.
 
When asked if he’s felt or heard the backlash, Bradley answered, “Honestly, I haven’t felt it but that’s the fans vision, I guess, and the fans that feel I’m not entertaining, I just make the fights look easy.” And while he’s not Arturo Gatti, the reality is his skill level has a way of neutralizing the offensive arsenal of his opponents. “Absolutely, you can look at the two fights; you can look at Pacquiao when I fought him and you can look at Pacquiao when he fought [Juan Manuel] Marquez. He was throwing like crazy when he fought Marquez and he was very complacent and very in control when he fought me. I’ve never seen Pacquiao that defensive in his whole career. He’s never been that defensive and most of the guys that get in the ring, they really can’t do what they want to do. I’m just that much smarter than them,” he states.
 
What really surprises Bradley’s foes is his deft head movement and ability to avoid punches. Other than the knockdowns against Holt and some parts of the Pacquiao match, you can’t recall Bradley getting touched all that much.
 
He explains, “I think me being elusive and moving my head and being able to bob and weave and get out of the way of shots, it definitely frustrates them because they can’t hit me with a clean shot. And on top of that, I’m always looking for the counters. So anything they do, I’m looking to counter and a lot of guys don’t want to get hit.” Bradley’s trainer, Joel Diaz, adds, “Timothy is very difficult. It’s complicated for opponents. That’s the reason it’s hard to get in there and exchange with him. That’s the reason why in this fight, we’re trying to leave skills aside a little bit and we’re going to be more explosive. We’re going to put more power, be more effective with his punches now.”
 
One of the reasons why the hardnosed Russian was tabbed to weather the “Desert Storm” was that he isn’t a junk-baller; he will be pitching fastballs all night long. And as Bradley’s manager, Cameron Dunkin, bluntly pointed out, “Well, he was available and we didn’t have a lot of available guys but he’s going to make a fun fight. He’s going to come hard; he’s a good puncher.”
 
Todd duBoef, president of Top Rank, says of the match-up, “I think, stylistically, it’s boxer versus brawler and Timmy’s going to be in there all night with a guy who’s going to keep going like hell, just bull him around and Tim’s going to have to be very patient and find his openings and not get bulled around.”
 
Diaz also thinks believes Provodnikov is built to order.
 
“He’s the perfect opponent for Timothy to look good that night. Provodnikov comes forward; he wants to get up to throw the right-hand. That’s going to be hard to connect on Timothy; we’ve been focusing on the right hand for a long time. Provodnikov has some power in his hands but he also makes a lot of mistakes and we got ‘em all down,” said the trainer at a recent media day for Bradley held at the Fortune Gym in Hollywood. “This is a perfect fight because he comes straight down the middle. This is a perfect fight for Timothy to look really good and explosive March 16th.”
 
According to everyone involved, the stage is set for Bradley to shine and once again create some excitement in his career. It’s amazing if you think about it but perhaps getting the nod versus the “Pac-Man” last year might have actually been a bad thing for his career. Because less than a year later, he’s facing Provodnikov in a not-only-must-win-but-also-look-good situation. In essence, Bradley has a lot to prove to the public despite his vast accomplishments in the ring.
 
“I wouldn’t consider him a non-crowd-pleasing type of fighter. I think he can actually be in very good fights and be very crowd-pleasing,” claimed an optimistic duBoef, who, honestly, can’t think any other way. “He’s very skilled. I think the pressure on Tim Bradley is to move forward; that is the key.”
 
That was a bit of a problem in the aftermath of the Pacquiao fight. Bradley became embittered when, instead of a rematch, Pacquiao chose to face Marquez for a fourth time at the end of 2012. Meanwhile, Bradley turned down an opportunity to return against Peterson on HBO in December. After a victory against one of the sport’s iconic figures, he was simply out of sight, out of mind.
 
Dunkin admitted of this period, “It’s been really frustrating but look, I don’t want to be a crybaby but he hasn’t been treated very nicely by anybody and I know that they went back and looked at the fight [versus Pacquiao] and found out that it was a lot closer than they thought, HBO, and it’s been hard on Tim. It’s really messed with his head and there’s not a lot of guys to fight because the two companies [Top Rank and Golden Boy] don’t get along and [Golden Boy] signed most of the guys. So it’s been really hard for him and really frustrating for him because he wants to prove how good he is.”
 
Yeah, somehow a win over Pacquiao hinders your career. Who thought that was possible?
 
“For unfortunate circumstances, [Bradley] kinda got held up in a decision from a June fight that stopped his career and I think the key for him is to move forward, be active, go fight who’s out there, show everybody why you’re the best in your weight class and why you can whip everybody,” said duBoef, adding, “There’s no handbook in how you deal with something like that and I think it was difficult for everyone involved. I think the commission didn’t know how to respond; the public didn’t know how to respond. A lot of people didn’t know how to respond and I think that right now, the best response is to get back into the ring and that probably would’ve been the best response early on. Get back into the ring after he recovered his ankles and things like that. And I think right now is the beginning of a new era for him. So what he does with his career right now in the ring is going to be shown on March 16th and he’s going to have to put on a great performance.”
 
As of now, Bradley’s critics probably outnumber his fans. And he admits he knows what was being said and written about him.
 
“I’ve read it last year,” he said. “I used to read a lot but I don’t read anything anymore. I used to be on the internet like crazy, man, but now, I don’t what they say now. But I know before, they would say, ‘Yeah, he’s boring, da-da-da, this, this and this.’ I’d read some of the comments but for some reason, they always still watch.”
 
Regardless, Bradley will continue to ply his trade; critics be damned.
 
“Y’ know, if they don’t like me, don’t watch me,” he states defiantly. “And I’ll just continue to rise in the sport and continue to do my job - win - the best way I know how. That’s the bottom line. I’m not a huge puncher, a huge KO artist, so get over it. Don’t try to make me something that I’m not. I am who I am and I’ll fight the way I fight and I’m not going to change it.
 
“I’m 29-0, man.”

MAILBAG

Here’s an email I received late Wednesday night regarding this weekend’s Top Rank/HBO card:

Hey Steve 

The question of everyone’s lips has got to be whether Bradley v Provodnikov cracks more than 1,000 in attendance? 

There is no doubt that Top Rank is the best in the business when it comes to actually selling tickets but can Bob weave his magic to crack the four figure mark in terms of bona fide paying customers? We all know that if this was a Golden Boy event it would be showering comps across Southern California. 

I actually think it is a pretty good fight. Bradley is not Gatti but rep for being boring is unwarranted (see his clashes against Holt and Peterson) and Prov is all action. If I lived locally I would be there in a flash. 

So, what do you reckon? 1,000 bums on seats or not? 

Keep up the fine work! 

Regards

Adrian B


Adrian, thanks for writing in. Yeah, I do think this card at the Home Depot Center will break the 1,000 mark in attendance and tickets sold. It’s still a world-class prizefight and like yourself, I think it’s a pretty good fight. Most fights in this venue (which I have stated many times is my favorite local facility for prizefights) do at least 2-3,000 fans. This card has some talented young fighters on the undercard but overall, I think it will be a tough sell for Top Rank. I think more than anything, this is about getting the ball rolling once again on Bradley, who, in my opinion, made a mistake by not getting back on the horse back in December.

So yeah, if the over/under was 1,000 paying customers for Saturday night, I would go over but again, that’s a better low bar you set. Not helping matters is that Leighton Ginn of the Desert Sun (the local paper in the Palm Springs area where Bradley hails from) told me on Wednesday at the final press conference that because of the local tennis tourney taking place out there, they haven’t been able to give Bradley the usual coverage leading into this fight.

But this is a big city with a lot of fight fans, I expect between 3,000-3,500 fans at the Home Depot Center.

For those who would like to attend, here is the ticket information (from a Top Rank press release):

Promoted by Top Rank®, in association with Banner Promotions and Tecate, remaining tickets, priced at $200, $100, $50 and $25, can be purchased online at AXS.com or by phone at 888-929-7849 as well as The Home Depot Center Box Office (open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Suites are available by calling 1-877-604-8777. For information of group discounts, please call 1-877-234-8425.
 
MIKEY

So who will newly-minted WBO featherweight titlist Mikey Garcia face in May?

According to Carl Moretti of Top Rank, “[Juan Manuel] ‘JuanMa’ Lopez is the leading potential opponent but it all depends of if he can make 126 and when Mikey Garcia ends up fighting next. ‘JuanMa’ is going to take a fight on April 20th in Mexico. So if Mikey fights in May, it’s probably not realistic. If Mikey fights in June, then it’s a chance it could happen.”

Also in the mix is Orlando Cruz, who fights on Telemundo versus Aalan Martinez tonight.

“He’s a possibility because he’s the number one contender. Obviously he’s an interesting story but he also has a tough fight coming up on Telemundo. So if he wins that fight, then clearly, he’s acceptable to everybody; I think.”

Top Rank will be meeting with HBO in Los Angeles next week to shore up their late spring/early summer plans.

FRIDAY FLURRIES

Although it hasn’t been officially announced, the bout between Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal looks like it’s going to take place on May 25th in Montreal. Adonis Stevenson will face Chad Dawson on a separate date...An early-June “Boxing After Dark” card is being kicked around that would feature the likes of Willie Nelson and Thomas Oosthuizen...Also on the card on Saturday night from the HDC are prospects Victor Pasillas, Jesse Magdaleno, Gabino Saenz, Andy Ruiz Jr. and Oscar Valdez (who will have clips of his fight featured on HBO during the main broadcast)...I want to see Kobe and Dahntay Jones on a pay-per-view undercard in the summer...The NSAC announced that both Richie Abril and Sharif Bogere both tested negative for any banned substances. But they were both positively dreadful on the night of March 2nd
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