Wherever they are in the running, Peterson and his trainer, Barry Hunter, won a $50,000 purse bid for a bout with Zab Judah on Tuesday morning, with Peterson’s IBF junior welterweight belt up for grabs. My own sources told me that the fight was something Peterson was focused on at the moment. However, a fight with Tim Bradley for a welter belt might be just the medicine Peterson is looking for to cure his ailing public profile following his positive test for synthetic testosterone under the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) testing earlier this year. To date, Peterson has not pled his case before a commission for licensure. Something tells me Florida will be amendable to giving him one.
The other candidate, Ruslan Provodnikov, is not a former champ. Some might argue on Twitter that he will never win a belt because he swells a bit too much or has a swarming style that a good boxer will negate with straight shots down the pipe. They might argue that his power is not world-class. However, it says here that this candidate is just the man to bring the fight out of Tim Bradley, who - let’s face it - has never been accused of being super-exciting on his own.
“I think my career is long enough and I think the time has come for me to be in a big fight,” Provodnikov told Maxboxing.com Monday evening from his home in Beryozovo, Russia, where he lives with his wife and child. “Even if some think I am not ready, I think the time has come for it. I am not one of those that will say, ‘I will beat anybody’ or I will do this or that. Even though I think I can win the fight, I cannot guarantee that. But I can guarantee it will be a great show and an extraordinary fight. I think it would be one of the best fights of the year.”
Provodnikov is likely best known for two things. The first is his bout with Mauricio Herrera in January of 2011. The fight is the reason there is a “1” in Provodnikov’s 22-1 (15) career. The fight was all action and both men came away feeling they had won. It’s been a bone of contention for both fighters who mutually talk of a rematch to settle the score. Provodnikov has won five fights since then against ESPN-level opposition has yet to face an HBO-level opponent, much less fight on that network.
Provodnikov is also known for being the star sparring partner of the last Manny Pacquiao camp, coincidentally, in preparation for Tim Bradley. It’s an interesting wild card (no pun intended) for the Freddie Roach-trained fighter to play. He’s had a good long look at Bradley.
“When Freddie chose me as a sparring partner for Manny to prepare for Bradley,” he said, “he told me, physically, I am the same as Bradley as far as height and length. My style and my tactics are similar to Bradley as well. Freddie told me to be myself because he had worked with me for the preparation for my fight right before [the Bradley camp began]. He knew my style and how I box. He told me just the way I am is very similar to Bradley. He wanted me to spar as I usually spar. I remained myself. I think that worked.”
In fact, through that process of trying to “just be himself,” Provodnikov had several breakthroughs as a fighter. Among them was conditioning as a champion on the level a Manny Pacquiao does. Another was a newfound fluidity as his attack shifted up and down on an opponent. This was displayed in his last fight against Jose Reynoso. He was more active in the upper body and sharper than ever.
Provodnikov feels the style match-up with Bradley will make for spontaneous combustion.
“Our styles are very similar. Neither of us wants to take a step back,” he said. “So I think that will play out to be a great fight. Both of us like to fight. We aren’t going to move away from each other.”
I asked if he saw any mistakes Bradley made that he could capitalize on.
“I was at the fight live and was rooting for Manny. I didn’t watch for all the mistakes that Bradley was making but as soon as I found out that I was being considered for this fight, I started thinking about the fight. I began to watch [Bradley vs. Pacquiao] over again,” he explained. “I saw some things. I won’t disclose the things that came into my mind. I am sure that Freddie and I will work together because of the experience we have together. With Freddie having been in the corner with Manny against Bradley, I think together we will find the mistakes that Bradley makes. But I can say one thing. I think once Bradley changed his tactic a little bit in the fight and started trying to pull Manny towards himself instead of fighting toe-to-toe, I think that kind of changed things for Manny. Just working from the experience with Manny and the experience he had with Bradley, I think that I will be able to find certain things for myself that will give me an advantage against Bradley.”
Provodnikov, even so far away, reads the boxing trades and had a few things to say about it.
“I know HBO was interested in having me on in the past,” he began. “And recently, I read a lot of articles that said I wasn’t ready for this fight or I am not worthy of this fight. They don’t consider me a good opponent for Bradley and that it would not be a good fight for him. Well, I just want to say that a lot of people can think different things. Until I am in the fight, it’s all talk. Once the fight happens, we will see. This is one of the toughest fights that Bradley has ever been in. I think the fight will prove a lot of people wrong who think negatively upon the fight. It’s all talk until the fight happens.”
In the end, Provodnikov understands the fight is not in his hands just yet. He merely wanted to state his case and make the naysayers think for a second before tweeting or braying further (respectfully, of course). To him, it’s all about making an action fight that he believes he can win. Generally, I felt that was always what we wanted our fighters to do. This is entertainment, after all.
“It will be up to Tim Bradley. No matter what I say, it will probably not change their decision. But I just want to say there are people out there saying that Bradley may not be the best because of [how the Manny fight went]. But we know he has been on that level. But for him, it’s also a chance to not fight the easiest fight. For him, it’s important to choose an opponent who can give him a fight, that can punch. It will also give Bradley a chance to redeem himself after the last fight where the decision was talked about for a couple months after the fight. We hope Bradley picks us because if he does, we will take the fight right away. We won’t hesitate. This is a fight that will create fireworks and that is what everybody wants. That is what Bradley wants. That’s what we want and that’s what the fans want.”
It’s easy to forget most media (not me but most) picked Pacquiao overwhelmingly to beat Bradley, who eventually was given a split decision. It doesn’t always have to be best vs. best. Look at Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado. Do we care what belt it’s for? No. Is it going to be exciting? Yes, it is. That is very possible in this case, in my opinion.
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