(Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)
Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley (30-0, 12 KOs) withstood a knockdown in the final round to win a razor close unanimous decision over Ruslan “The Siberian Rocky” Provodnikov (22-2, 15 KOs) at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The bout was televised on HBO’s “World Championship Boxing.”
Scores were 114-113 (twice) and 115-112.
Bradley, 29, was fighting for the first time since his shocking victory over Manny Pacquiao nine months ago. Provodnikov, also 29, is better known for who his trainer is, Freddie Roach. That would change after the fight.
Provodnikov pressed the action in the opening stanza. Bradley moved and countered. The fighters exchanged left hooks in the middle of the round. Bradley had the edge until the last thirty seconds. Provodnikov unleashed an over the top right hand that hurt Bradley. Half his body dropped, but he stayed on his feet. Provodnikov clipped him with a short hook that finally put him down a few seconds later. Referee Pat Russell incorrectly ruled the knockdown a slip. Bradley survived the stanza by holding on.
Round two was more fireworks. Bradley was shook again by a murderous right hand. The hook was long, but couldn’t miss. Bradley landed half a dozen punches of his own, but “The Siberian Rocky” wouldn’t back up. Provodnikov stung Bradley with a left hook at the bell.
Bradley dug deep and took over in round three. His punches were sharp. He peppered Provodnikov with shots to the head and body. A three punch combination punctuated by a left hook to the body hurt Provodnikov. The challenger looked exhausted at the bell.
In round four, Bradley kept working off his jab. He absorbed a heavy right hand. Provodnikov ate a half a dozen Bradley hooks. His head was bobbling, but his will to win was unperturbed. Prodvodnikov caught Bradley with another right.
The fight was even going into round five. Bradley kept working the head of Provodnikov. His punch output was overwhelming the Russian challenger. He landed a left to the noggin followed by a shot to the body that visibly hurt Provodnikov. The defending champion rallied in the last minute of the round. The air seemed to be coming out of the Provodnikov balloon at the end of the round. But, the tough guy from Beryozovo would soon change that perception.
Bradley dominated round six until running into a hard left hook. The punch buckled his legs. The fighters went toe to toe in the last twenty seconds. A number of Provodnikov’s blows glanced off the chin of Bradley who fought back furiously with his own punches.
Bradley went back to boxing in round seven. The war of attrition was on. Provodnikov stalked and ate more punches. Bradley jabbed and outworked Provodnikov.
In round eight, Bradley gave Provodnikov some angles. He boxed effectively. His jab landed. Provodnikov, living up to his nickname, took five punches to land one. His face was showing the effects of being a catcher. Bradley hurt him with two hooks to the body.
Provodniov connected with a hard hook in round nine. A Bradley right opened a cut over his left eye. With blood dripping down the side of his face, Provodnikov fought back. A hard hook seemed to hurt Bradley. A right hand stood up the champion. Bradley went back to working in the last minute. A overhand right stung Provodnikov.
Bradley boxed some more in round 10. He was clearly the sharper puncher, but Provodnkov refused to quit. A hard hook caught Bradley. The determined champion shook off the blow. His jab couldn’t miss.
Provodnikov was told he needed a knockout in round 11. Bradley went to the body of the pursuing Russian. Provodnikov landed a jolting uppercut that Bradley took well. He was rolling with most of the punches, but Provodnikov still packed some dynamite.
The last round was guaranteed to be explosive. Bradley used the ring in the first minute of the round. He fought off the ropes and hurt Provodnikov with a combination, but a thudding left hook put Bradley on queer street. A huge right hand shook his relatives. He staggered into the ropes. Provodnikov chased after Bradley and caught him with another hook. Bradley finally went down with nine seconds left in the round. He hauled himself up, but his dazed expression said it all.
“This guy is a power puncher," said Bradley in the ring. "He’s a great warrior. I tip my hat to him."
“Everyone saw the fight," said Provodnikov through his interpreter. "I did everything I could to win the fight."