Timothy Bradley: Who was that guy who fought Ruslan Provodnikov on Saturday in Carson, Calif.? It wasn’t the calculating boxer we’ve seen in the past, the one who used his skills and athleticism to outpoint Manny Pacquiao in his controversial last fight. This guy was reckless, which gave the fans a fight-of-the-year candidate but nearly cost Bradley a fight he ultimately won by a close decision. Was it lack of motivation that altered his DNA? Bradley didn’t expect to fight a relative unknown after beating Pacquiao. Was it overconfidence? He might’ve thought of Provodnikov as beneath his class. Or was it simply a matter of getting caught early in the fight by a big puncher? I suspect it was mostly the last explanation. Bradley (30-0, 12 knockouts) was hurt toward the end of the first round and was never quite himself after that. We should give the Bradley who emerged under these difficult circumstances his due, though. The resilience and courage he demonstrated – he was out on his feet multiple times but somehow survived – was breathtaking. The unfortunate part is that he might pay a price. As one expert observer put it the night of the fight, “He made a lot of fans tonight, but there’s no way that fight didn’t take a few years off of his career.”
BIGGEST WINNER II
Ruslan Provodnikov: We can understand why Provodnikov (22-2, 15 KOs) was so devastated after the fight on Saturday. To give absolutely everything you have and believe fervently that you did enough to win only to come up short on the scorecards is heartbreaking. The Russian needn’t be so disappointed, though; if a fighter ever was victorious in defeat, it was Provodnikov on Saturday. He went into the fight as a little-known Russian and emerged as a compelling warrior who punched his way into the hearts of those who witnessed his effort against Bradley. He instantly became must-see TV. Provodnikov isn’t a great boxer, although he has solid skills, and might’ve benefitted from Bradley’s relative lack of punching power but his fighting spirit is infectious. Bradley’s brain was rattled but he wasn’t far off the mark in his assessment of Provodnikov after the fight: “This guy is a power puncher, a great warrior. I take my hat off to him. He’ll beat any 140- and 147-pounder out there. He’s the real deal.” I don’t know if he’d beat any junior welterweight or welterweight but few if any who fight him will emerge from the ring without going through hell.
SECOND BEST FIGHT
Vargas vs. Omotoso: Jessie Vargas and Wale Omotoso gave the fans a fight almost the equal of the main event Saturday in Carson. I thought that Josesito Lopez was too strong for Vargas when they fought in 2011. Vargas won a split decision. I thought Omotoso, who outweighed Vargas by 10 pounds when they stepped into the ring, also was too strong for the Las Vegan. Vargas won a close, but unanimous decision. The kid is tougher than some of us realize even if his lack of punching power remains a liability. Vargas (22-0, 9 KOs) came out too aggressively early in the fight and paid a price; he went down in the second round. After that, he relied more on his boxing ability and less on bravado, and seemed to outwork Omotoso (23-1, 19 KOs) the rest of the way, although he nearly stopped the Nigerian in a wild fifth round. Omotoso got in his licks, landing hard punches throughout, but in my opinion didn’t do enough to win. Vargas is knocking on the door of a Top 10 ranking. And Omotoso didn’t hurt his credibility. Everyone won on Saturday – Vargas, Omotoso and the fans.
IBF junior flyweight titleholder John Riel Casimero (18-2, 10 KOs) of the Philippines pulled off a difficult feat by easily outpointing Luis Alberto Rios (18-2-1, 13 KOs) in Rios’ hometown of Panama City on Saturday. … Robert Marroquin (23-2, 16 KOs) bounced back from a one-sided loss to Guillermo Rigondeaux in September by stopping Antonio Escalante (28-6, 19 KOs) in three rounds Saturday in Thackerville, Okla. Marroquin remains one to watch.