LOS ANGELES – Tim Bradley has defeated seven world titleholders en route to compiling a 29-0 record.
Four of those seven titleholders – Junior Witter, Kendall Holt, Devon Alexander and future hall of famer Manny Pacquiao – held major belts at the time of their fight. All four were top-rated fighters; Pacquiao, who Bradley outpointed to lift the WBO welterweight title last June, topped the mythical pound-for-pound ratings.
One would think those accomplishments would make the former three-time junior welterweight beltholder and current welterweight titleholder one of sport’s brightest stars. But Bradley, who is in the lower top 10 of THE RING’s, Yahoo! Sports’ and ESPN.com’s pound-for-pound ratings, is still not embraced by the boxing public.
The main reason for Bradley’s current status among fans is that his biggest victories come with asterisks – most observers thought he lost the Pacquiao fight, and his heavily hyped HBO-televised bout with Alexander turned out to be a stinker.
However, although Bradley hasn’t fought since the Pacquiao fight, and hasn’t been offered any major fights – such as a rematch with the Filipino icon or shots at Floyd Mayweather or Juan Manuel Marquez – the 29-year-old Palm Springs native seemed positive and content at the recent announcement for his first bout of 2013.
“I’m just glad to be back,” Bradley told boxing media at the press conference for his HBO-televised March 16 title defense against once-beaten junior welterweight contender Ruslan Provodnikov at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
“Ruslan comes to fight. He takes your best and gives his best. He’s going to push me as hard as he can.”
Provodnikov (22-1, 15 knockouts), a rugged 29-year-old slugger from the tiny Siberian town of Berezovo in Russia, was understandably elated about his first title opportunity.
“I assure you, you made the right decision giving me this chance,” Provodnikov told HBO representatives through his co-manager Vadim Kornilov at Wednesday’s press conference at the Millennium Biltmore hotel. “This is the dream I’ve had all my life. It’s going to be a great fight and everyone is going to enjoy it.”
Bradley is banking on that statement coming true. He believes fans will come around to accepting him if Provodnikov’s aggressive, come-forward style brings out his best in what amounts to an HBO showcase fight.
“I always gotta prove something to the people,” Bradley said. “I’m familiar with Provodnikov and his style because he fought (and lost to) a good friend of mine, Mauricio Herrera. He’s definitely going to test me, but offensive fighters like Ruslan often leave themselves open. I’m a smart fighter. I’ll do what I have to do to beat him.”
And if some fans are still lukewarm with him, Bradley says he’ll eventually win them over with future fights.
“I want to be active this year, three fights is what I’ve asked (promoter) Top Rank and (manager) Cameron (Dunkin) to get me,” said Bradley, who hasn’t fought three times in the same year since 2009. “I prefer to fight three times a year. When I don’t, I get to spend more time with my family, which is good, but the downside to that is that I’m not in the public eye.
“A fighter gets more fans the more he fights. It’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’ with boxing fans.”
Bradley wouldn’t talk about who he would like to face later in the year. Nor would he discuss the backlash he received from fans and some of the media following the controversial Pacquiao fight.
“I don’t even think about Pacquiao,” he said. “(That fight) doesn’t matter to me. At the end of the day I’m still undefeated and I’m still the champ. I leave the past in the past.
“My only focus is March 16.”
So far, the main support for Bradley-Provodnikov is a scheduled 10-round showdown between young, undefeated welterweight fringe contenders Jessie Vargas (21-0, 9 KOs) and Wale Omotoso (23-0, 19 KOs), which will likely be part of the HBO broadcast.
Two-time Mexican Olympian Oscar Valdez (2-0, 2 KOs), who fights at featherweight, and unbeaten junior featherweight prospect Gabino Saenz (8-0-1, 6 KOs) are also scheduled to be on the Top Rank/Banner Promotions card.
Tickets to Bradley-Provodnikov go on sale this Friday,Feb. 8, at 10:00 a.m. PT. Priced at $200, $100, $50 and $25, tickets 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.).
Photos / Chris Farina-Top Rank