By: Mateo Banegas
Saturday night gave boxing fans an early gift, an incredible fight that could be considered a candidate for fight-of-the-year as well as round(s)-of-the-year. Coming off of a 10-month absence from the ring since his win against Manny Pacquiao, Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley (29-0) defended his WBO welterweight title against a fairly new face to many, boxer Ruslan “The Siberian Rocky” Provodnikov (22-1). Bradley aimed to get back on his feet, following months of criticism and banter about his Pacquiao fight, and show the world why he deserves to be world champion. Fortunately, that’s exactly what happened in Bradley’s first defense of his WBO belt, an action-packed slugfest, against a strong, aggressive Provodnikov – a name boxing fans will not soon forget.
Bradley came out fast and busy, telling Max Kellerman that he wanted to establish control of the fight early, although this approach catered to Provodnikov, known for his steady pressure and brawling style. So began the brawl, with the fighters trading strong, hard-hitting punches, tit-for-tat, in the middle of the ring for the first two rounds. Bradley kept getting caught with good looping rights from Provodnikov, though he would find a way to answer back. Bradley got rocked in the 2nd round and found himself taking a knee that was called a slip by the referee, but which some felt should have been called a knockdown for Provodnikov. By the end of the 2nd, it was unimaginable how the fighters remained standing from the amount of blows each took.
Bradley then began boxing, slowing the fight and implementing a plan that allowed him to jab, land body shots and set up good punches. Provodnikov was unable to box with Bradley, as he kept looking for power punches and trying to shift the match back to a brawl. Yet, Bradley stayed busy, making Provodnikov focus on his defense, and showing his ring experience.
The punch-for-punch action returned at the end of 6th round, with Provodnikov moving forward, hurt or not. Bradley returned to move around in round 7, swinging the fight back in his favor. Provodnikov’s right eye started to swell from Bradley’s steady work. In the 9th, Bradley opened a good cut over Provodnikov’s right eye, as he continued to land calculating punches. At moments, Provodnikov would gain steam and move forward steadily, though Bradley would squash the front with calculated body blows.
Provoknidov had one last stand, connecting with a brutal left that wobbled Bradley and continued with punches that would lead to a knockdown. Yet, Bradley lasted until the end of the round and got up for a standing eight-count to end the fight.
Bradley won by unanimous decision, with the judges calling it:
judge: Raul Caiz Sr 115-112 | judge: Marty Denkin 114-113 | judge: Jerry Cantu 114-113
Overall, Bradley showed he had a tremendous chin, could withstand strong fronts, and endure fights with his boxing kills, proving to all why he deserves to be the champion.
Earlier in the night, young Jessie Vargas (21-0) met up with Wale “Lucky Boy” Omotoso (23-0), in a welterweight bout of two unbeaten prospects that would foreshadow many aspects of the main event.
Fans were greeted with a very active first few round, as both fighters let the gloves fly. Trained by Freddie Roach, the fight seemed to favor Lucky Boy, a known hard hitter who came in having KO’d 19 of his 23 opponents. Omotoso who was clearly the stronger individual, kept catching Vargas with strong right hand punches that would land over Vargas’ jab. As they began to engage, it was apparent that Lucky Boy was winning.
Trying to prevent Omotoso from taking over the fight, Vargas seemed to recalibrate his jab and make it effective, keeping Lucky boy at a safe distance. For the rest of the fight, Vargas was able to establish a rhythm and set up combos to land points and keep Omotoso at bay, taking away that dangerous right hand.
Vargas’ jab proved to cause a lot of problems for Omotoso, neutralizing his fronts, and securing the WBC Continental Americas Welterweight belt. With Vargas’ name being thrown around for potential fights against Pacquiao and Marquez, we may see this young fighter in the spotlight sooner than later.
Final Scorecard all in favor of Vargas:
judge: Gwen Adair 97-92 | judge: Jonathan Davis 96-93 | judge: Fritz Werner 96-93