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“Bradley and Provodnikov redefine ‘good, clean fight” and other stories

(Photo © German Villasenor)
(Photo © German Villasenor)

Last Saturday night, I spent yet another memorable evening under the Southern California stars watching two men beat the hell out of each other in the pursuit of fortune and glory. It’s my job and my pleasure to be present for magic nights such as that one. In the champion’s corner was Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley, 30-0, 12 KOs, a hardworking two-division champion from Palm Springs, CA fresh off of a career-best win over Manny Pacquiao last June. Bradley had toiled for years as an unknown-to-the-masses champion and had finally reached the pay-per-view plateau by signing with promoter Top Rank as a future opponent for the Filipino superstar. When he got there, Bradley found out two things: He can hang at the elite level and its real f*cking lonely at the top.


Bradley came out of that fight with a broken foot on one side and a damaged ankle on the other and enough criticism from fans and media to make any man turn a little bit bitter about the whole thing. He’d spend the next eight months mending but perhaps putting on more weight than he’d probably like on his stocky, muscular 5’6” frame and getting increasingly angry over how few in the media agreed he’d beaten arguably the best fighter in the world. On top of it all, Bradley couldn’t get the one thing that could clear up the mess: a rematch with Pacquiao. The cherry on top was of course watching Pacquiao get iced in six rounds against Juan Manuel Marquez. So much for clarity. It hadn’t been a short or easy eight months for Tim Bradley.


In the challenger’s corner was Ruslan Provodnikov, 22-2 with 15 knockouts, a Russian fighter familiar to American audiences through his work on ESPN over the years. Before his career best performance last year against Jose Reynoso, Provodnikov made his name as the chief sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao into that battle with Bradley. His lone loss coming into the fight was a close decision loss against Mauricio Herrera in 2011.

Losses are an important benchmark for every fighter. It defines who they are. The losing fighter either accepts the loss and grows from it or he doesn’t.  Provodnikov didn’t accept the decision but he grew from the experience. He rattled off a five-fight win streak, adding trainer Freddie Roach and strength coach Gavin MacMillan in the process. Heading into the Bradley fight, Provodnikov’s team, which at its foundation is managers Vadim Kornilov and Andrey Napolskikh as well as promoter Artie Pellulo of Banner Promotions, helped put Ruslan in the best position to win. Their belief fueled the engine that is Provodnikov’s will and work ethic.  




For the build up to that PPV fight between Bradley and Pacquiao, HBO cameras buzzed and swarmed around Pacquiao and Provodnikov’s sparring as everyone witnessing the sessions wondered “Who’s this Russian kid giving Pacquiao the business?” When Provodnikov emerged from that training camp he was a changed fighter. Having gotten as good as he was given against Pacquiao, Provodnikov’s confidence grew with the knowledge that he was among the top fighters in the world. He just had to be given a chance to prove it.


For his part, Bradley brought into to the ring with him all the rage and frustration of his time away from the ring. He wasn’t just wailing on Ruslan Provodnikov with full force in Cleto Reyes gloves on this night. He was punching the media for doubting him and not even considering a candidate for Fighter of the Year. Bradley was dropping bombs on Pacquiao for getting knocked out before he could get his rematch. He was showing the world that Tim Bradley is a champion worthy of praise one punched given or taken at a time.




The fight was a cloud of chaotic dust. Tim Bradley came in looking for a fight and Ruslan Provodnikov obliged him. Like a shark, Provodnikov waded in quickly looking for blood and the feats that follows. Bradley, in his “puncher’s gloves” cracked him with combinations. The Russian just smiled and stuck his tongue out.




A champion and a challenger each with something to prove and everything to gain set the table perfectly for a fistic feast beneath the stars on a chilly Carson, CA. Smoke wisped past the ring framing the fighters as the ripped into each other with savage elbows mere mortals would be killed by. Bradley’s trainer Joel Diaz kept trying to get his man on game plan which as to box smart from the outside but Tim had to have at it on this night. His problem was twofold: Provodnikov was just as hungry and hit harder. A lot harder.




In an interview with David Duenez of conducted after the fight, Diaz said that Bradley did not remember the fight:




For fans and media in attendance will never forget. Provodnikov rose to the occasion and showed that at 147, (This was his debut at the weight), his power is for real and his chin in unreal. While Bradley is not a puncher, Provodnikov walked through some hellacious punches. Bradley was hurt in every round, reeling near unconsciousness time and again and still he fired back long strings of combinations to stave off the Russian’s attack.




This pattern played out time and again: Provodnikov stalking, Bradley raining punches in his direction, some landing, some skittering away off of Provodnikov’s surprisingly fluid upper body.




And then it happened. First round and while Provodnikov, dubbed “The Siberian Rocky,” was not getting outclassed, he wasn’t making anything. But then it happened. A right hand over the top of Bradley jab and suddenly “The Desert Storm” started to drizzle. He teetered for a brief moment and Provodnikov was all over him. Bradley went down but referee Pat Russell, even after Bradley failed to get back up and fell on his back, did not rule it a knockdown. The call would end up hurting Provodnikov on two cards. Marty Denkin and Jerry Cantu both scored the fight 114-113 Bradley. The missed call cost Provodnikov the draw.


However, it was also Provodnikov’s inexperience at the elite level along with Bradley’s skill and iron will that made this outcome. In the middle of the fight, Bradley out-fought and out-boxed Provodnikov who told me late Thursday night that perhaps hurting Bradley early was a bad thing. Provodnikov knew he could hurt Bradley any time and so he waited too long. Add in that his adrenaline load had been shot by the third round and he was a little more tired than he should be at that stage and it was recipe for judging disaster.




The twelfth round, Provodnikov finally chased down Bradley and had him reeling as the clock ticked away. Bradley won the fight by going to a knee in the corner. As a friend described it, it was as if Bradley had swam across the ocean and passed out a foot from shore and then was dragged up and back into consciousness by someone. He rose before the final bell tolled and that was that. Unanimous decision by scores of 114-113 twice and 115-112 and still .the WBO welterweight champion.




Neither man was a loser in a close fight. Provodnikov was robbed of a draw by a mistake but as promoter Artie Pellulo intimated after the fight in his always positive manner, Provodnikov won in losing. He may have lost the boxing match but in many ways he won the fight. Most importantly, he won the crowd, who now love him even more because he lost. They’re emotionally invested and that is a big part of this whole deal. Now instead of being called an ESPN2 fighter, Provodnikov is being mentioned in the big fights against Lucas Matthysse or the winners of Danny Garcia/Zab Judah and Rios-Alvarado 2. Being with a smaller promoter like Banner, he has more options than an exclusive to Top Rank fighter. Had Provodnikov won, that might not have been the case.


Bradley won all around. His chin looks vulnerable so more people will want to fight him. He answered personal questions and critical questions about his ability to be an action fighter who knows he can bore his way to victory but instead says “Nope. Let’s fight.” The fight did surprisingly good ratings with a peak of 1.4 million viewers. Tim has what he predicted he would get with this fight: respect. You can’t buy it. You have to earn it and Mr. Bradley did just that.




Boxing won in that Bradley and Provodnikov pushed in the same direction prior to the match: they insisted they both undergo anti-doping tests more stringent than what is offered by the California Athletic Commission. The Voluntary Anti-Doping Association was hired for the task and carried out the process with no positive tests reported to date.




Bradley and Provodnikov, by undergoing VADA testing, taking the fight in the first place, and bringing such passion to the ring that night in a savage and beautiful battle, redefined what a “good, clean fight” is. For that, boxing should be eternally grateful.




VADA’s standing offer to the UFC
’s Brent Brookhouse, who is a fine read, interview’s the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association president Dr. Margaret Goodman regarding her standing offer from February of this year to test all UFC fighters and charge the mixed martial arts league no administrative fees. That’s right, she would only charge for the lab and collections costs. If that is not character and commitment to anti-doping, I don’t know what is.




Dr. Goodman also reiterated the point that VADA does not test for THC (as was previously reported in these pages). Dana White of the UFC had expressed concern earlier this year about drug testing his UFC fighters randomly citing how many of his fighters would test positive for marijuana, which contains THC. VADA responded with this offer and openly admitted that they do not view THC as performance enhancing and thus do not test for it. If that is not understanding the modern combat sports culture (culture period) I don’t know what is.




Hit the link to see Dr. Goodman’s proposal:  




I applaud Mr. Brookhouse for his consistent inquisitiveness in this area. Questions about testing and commitment to anti-doping should be standard equipment for all combat sports media, in my opinion.




“Question: How high is the Nevada Athletic Commission?”


The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s John J. Smith wrote a pitch-perfect column called “Legalizing pot makes $900,000 sense” pointing out the behind the times Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) who fined Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr $900,000 and suspended him for nine months retroactive to the fight in which he tested positive, a September 2012 middleweight title match against Sergio Martinez.




While I understand that part of the reason Chavez, Jr received such a large fine was because of his past suspension in Nevada for using a diuretic. I understand that. But THC has not been proven to be a performance enhancer with the exception of at least “The White Album” and most, if not all, of Richard Pryor’s material. It doesn’t make you bigger or stronger like a drug such as synthetic testosterone.




The NAC is being more and more of a bad joke in boxing. From its proliferation of therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone for MMA fighters to its above World Anti-Doping Agency code 6:1 T/E ratio, Nevada mirrors the current U.S. drug war’s punishment inequalities and hypocrisies.




On Tuesday, the NAC suspended boxer Mickey Bey for three months (roughly the time a TV fighter boxer is off regularly between fights) and $1,000 for having a T/E ratio of 33:1 when he knocked cold Robert Rodriguez in three rounds February 2, 2012.




Smoke a joint before a middleweight title fight? That’ll be $900,000 and nine months suspension, please.




Come into the ring with the Incredible Hulk’s T/E ratio? Pay the man some pocket change at the window and let us know when you get your next TV date.




Call Guinness because I think we have two world records. One for “World’s Most Expensive Joint” and the other for “Greatest Divide between Drug Penalties by the Same Commission.”




Perhaps Bey is just well-connected. He certainly seems to be for an ten round boxer who’d been off for two years.




Bey’s lawyer is one Joe Brown, formerly a commissioner for the Nevada Athletic Commission.  This is Mr. Brown’s bio from his firm’s website. I’m not sure if this is the most updated bio but from the site’s appearance they update often:




“Mr. Brown practices in the areas of government affairs, administrative law and business law. He is a former appointee of President Ronald Reagan to the State Justice Institute and the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the United States (1981-88) and has served as an officer or director of many businesses, civic and charitable organizations including the Nature Conservancy, the Department of Wildlife, the Nevada Development Authority, the Nevada Athletic Commission and Wells Fargo Bank. Presently, he serves as a commissioner for the Nevada Gaming Commission and Vice Chair of the Nevada Military Support Alliance.”




Hit the jump for the rest of it:




According to sources close to the commission, Mr. Brown still maintains close friendships with at least two of the commissioners voting in the case. I’m no lawyer but if true, is that not a conflict of interest?




In Steve Carp’s Las Vegas Review-Journal piece, Bey, promoted by Floyd Mayweather, Jr and trained by Floyd Mayweather, Sr. described himself as the victim.




“For the most part, I got a fair shake,” Bey told Carp. “This time, the fighter was the victim. The penalty was the overall stress it cost me and my family having to deal with this.”




Bey went to the Las Vegas Health Center and was treated for low testosterone levels with symptoms of “decreased libido and fatigue” by injecting him twice, one of which was days before the fight, with synthetic testosterone. Bey is a 29 years old muscular athlete. He does not appear to be a person low on testosterone.




For $1,000 and three months, Bey got to compete with five times the legal T/E limit in Nevada, which is 50% higher than anywhere in the U.S. already, in a televised prizefight and win by brutal knockout. Incidentally, the father of the anti-doping movement in boxing, Floyd Mayweather, Bey’s promoter and proprietor of the Mayweather Boxing Club where Bey trains, was the guest commentator for the fight.




According Carp’s story, Bey was given two injections prior to the fight but the doctors at the clinic labeled it “Enhancement not an option.” Well if the age-clinic doctor said so it must be true.




I used to joke that with Nevada’s 6:1 T/E ratio they should put up a sign that says “Come to Nevada and Use Testosterone. We won’t catch you.” Now I wonder if they shouldn’t just install a drive-thru window at the NAC offices complete with a giant fast food joint menu with options like “TRT TUE” or “Lenient Decision.” Why not just be upfront about it? That’s just one man’s opinion.




Another opinion is that someone on the federal or state level needs to begin investigating this further.




“And finally . . .”


In a recent story I wrote about famed nutrition guru and anti-doping activist Victor Conte quitting the team of Nonito Donaire, some took umbrage that I did not mention Conte’s past. They took more umbrage that I did not reveal why Conte left the team.




Here is the thing. Both sides talked to me off the record. Off the record means exactly that. It is not for the record. Its not on the record. It’s off the record. I wish I could tell you. I can’t.




I can say it’s not about money. Conte is not paid by the athletes he works with. Even when the athletes wear his “SNAC” brand supplement apparel, he doesn’t see a spike in sales. It was a decision between two men in a three year relationship. When the story needs to come out, it will.




Some assumed that where there is Conte and especially Conte exiting, there must a dark cloud of suspicion.




“Well, knowing Conte and his past . . .” one person tweeted to me. “Knowing Conte’s history . . .” began another assumption.




As for Conte’s past, I do apologize for not mentioning that yes, Conte was, in fact, the bassist for Tower of Power. Here is the Tower now, with Conte rocking a bass and white pants, asking that age old question: “What is hip?”




Oh yeah, he also created BALCO and revolutionized the supplement industry on both the light and dark sides of those particular arts.  




Later, there was a scandal involving BALCO went Conte took a left turn into the dark arts of performance enhancement. You can search for your own links on that one.




Lately, Conte has been an anti-doping advocate. As a writer outside of the mainstream, I feel compelled to report up-to-date news. Bringing up a man’s past, especially when he has paid for it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Every time I talk about  Bernard Hopkins, I don’t say “Former middleweight champion and armed robber Bernard Hopkins.” I say “Legend” or some other positive statement regarding Hopkins. He did his time. Conte should be given the same grace, in my opinion. Especially considering how correct the tune he has been singing since he came clean on national television almost a decade ago has been so clearly correct.




That’s just one man’s opinion. 


Gabriel Montoya

Co-host: Radio show


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