When WBO welterweight titleholder Tim Bradley enters the ring opposite Russian rival Ruslan Provodnikov on March 16 at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., the 29-year-old from Palm Springs, Calif., will be bigger, both physically and notoriety-wise, than he has been at any other point in his career.
“Tim is way bigger now than he ever was,” said Bradley’s manager, Cameron Dunkin. “I mean, people know him because of the controversy if nothing else. So he’s the biggest he’s ever been in his career right now.”
“People knowing who he is, and he’s gotten a lot of play from this. I’m not saying that it’s all good or it has all been fun, because it hasn’t been. But people know who he when he goes out.”
Roach said recently that he expects Bradley to become a timid fighter once he feels the power of the Russian in their HBO-televised clash. A former Pacquiao sparring partner, Provodnikov has won five consecutive fights as a junior welterweight, four of them by stoppage.
Although Provodnikov is coming off June’s second-round knockout of Jose Reynoso, ending the loser’s unbeaten streak at 6-0-1, it may be difficult to fathom he could have the power or the skills that rival Pacquiao’s, let alone others Bradley has faced.
Provodnikov’s lone defeat came opposite Mauricio Herrera (18-3, 7 KOs) in January of 2011 at 140 pounds, and he will be making only his third appearance at 147 pounds against Bradley.
Three of Bradley’s recent opponents — IBF junior welterweiight titleholder Lamont Peterson (31-1-1, 16 KOs), IBF welterweight beltholder Devon Alexander (24-1, 13 KOs) and Argentina’s Luis Carlos Abregu (34-1, 28 KOs) — were all unbeaten before falling by decision to Bradley.
A two-division, three-belt titlewinner, Bradley also dethroned Kendall Holt by unanimous decision for the WBO’s 140-pound belt in April of 2009, rising from two knockdowns to do so.
Bradley also owns a unanimous decision from July of 2007 over current IBF lightweight titleholder Miguel Vazquez (33-3, 13 KOs), whose other losses were by split- and unanimous decision to current WBC junior middleweight beltholder Saul Canelo Alvarez (41-0-1, 30 KOs).
After facing Abregu as a welterweight in July of 2010, and then vanquishing Alexander as a junior welterweight in January of 2011, Bradley scored knockdowns in the fifth, sixth and final rounds of an eighth-round knockout of former Olympic gold medalist and ex-beltholder Joel Casamayor at 140 pounds in November of 2011.
Casamayor was stopped for only the second time in his career by Bradley, whose next fight was against Pacquiao.
“Tim is the strongest that he’s ever been. The biggest and the strongest that he’s ever been. He’s a true 147-pounder now,” said Dunkin.
“He said the other day at the press conference that, ‘If I really had to, and I was really forced to, I could make 140 again if it meant some huge amount of money.’ But you can just look at him and see that it’s much better for him at 147. He’s really grown into a really solid 147-pounder.”
Bradley’s incentive for defeating Provodnikov was detailed to RingTV.com recently by Top Rank CEO Bob Arum.
Marquez is coming off December’s sixth-round stoppage of Pacquiao after having gone 0-2-1 in three previous fights against the eight-division titlewinner.
But Dunkin also includes pound-for-pound king and WBC welterweight beltholder Floyd Mayweather Jr. (43-0, 26 KOs) in the mix of potential targets for Bradley, should Mayweather get beyond a May 4 defense against Robert Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KOs).
“If he gives the performance that I think that he’s going to give, and he really goes out and hammers this guy, then I think that people are going to say, ‘You know what? He is entertaining, and he is definitely one of the top three or four fighters in the world. He’s a threat to Mayweather, he’s a threat to anybody,'” said Dunkin.
“That’s where that’s headed, you know, who does he want to fight? He definitely wants to fight Mayweather and he definitely wants to rematch Pacquiao and he definitely wants to fight Marquez. I think that those are the three fights that Tim wants. Tim wants to do whatever he has to do in this fight, so that people will force those people to figth him.”
PETERSON SAYS MATTYSSE WOULD BE ‘NO PROBLEM’
Schaefer would also like to match Peterson, of Washington, D.C., against THE RING’s No. 1-rated 140-pounder Matthysse (33-2, 31 KOs), of Argentina, on the same card.
If Peterson-Matthysse happens, Peterson said he will have no problem with his opponent.
“I don’t think he’s going to pose any problems for me,” said Peterson, 29, who signed with Golden Boy in January, and ended a 14-month layoff with his eighth-round stoppage of Kendall Holt in February.
“A lot of times, if you’ve seen my recent fights, I always have to track somebody down. That doesn’t really give me a chance to really box. But I think that at this point, you know, if I fight Matthysse, it will give me a chance to do a little bit of boxing and to bang when I want to.”
Peterson did not rule out a potential move into the 147-pound division in the future.
“It’s kind of like an up or down thing. Sometimes, I feel like I can’t make it any more. Sometimes I do get up to get my weight. One time, I did get up to 170 pounds, so sometimes it’s tough,” said Peterson.
“But for this camp, I was in the gym so long, the weight just seemed to be maintained at a certain point, and each time I made the weight, it seemed like I did it a little bit better. So I might be around for a while at 140.”
Peterson was stripped of the WBA’s version of his belt, which he also won from Khan in addition to the IBF, owing to a failed drug test last March of last year that was contractually administered at his choosing by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA).
Peterson came up dirty for synthetic testosterone, which forced the cancelation of Peterson-Khan II. The IBF stuck by Peterson, however, after a review of his medical records by IBF-appointed doctors ruled that the testosterone levels discovered in Peterson were not at a level that would enhance his performance.
Peterson admitted to having a testosterone pellet surgically implanted into his hip by Las Vegas-based Dr. John Thompson on Nov. 12 — a month prior to facing Khan — after he was diagnosed with an abnormally low testosterone level.
The win over Holt has Peterson on the road to clearing his name, the fighter said.
“We’re going to continue to chip away at that. Right now, I think that I took a big step forward, but I think that I have more steps to take as far as clearing that up,” said Peterson.
“I got the victory, and I’m happy about that. I have to go and look at the tape and see how that went and how well I did. I know that I made some mistakes. Some things felt a little awkward in there. But maybe it was just Kendall’s style.”
Photo by Chris Farina, Top Rank
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com