By Matthew Hurley: As Timothy Bradley awaited the judge’s decision after his gut-wrenching battle with Ruslan Provodnikov, conflicting emotions must have been running through his admittedly cluttered mind. As honest a fighter as there is in boxing, Bradley has suffered for respect and his dignity for the past year.
“Here we go again,” he must have thought, despite the gracious, brave face he projected.
For the sake of Bradley and everyone else who is sick of hearing about it, can we just forget about his controversial decision victory over Manny Pacquiao? Bradley did nothing but fight that night. He didn’t score the fight and he deserved none of the grief he went through because of the end result. The real question is why weren’t the judges taken to task by the fans and media for as long as Bradley has been for something he had no control over?
There were boos when Bradley got his just deserved victory in this bout as well, which seemed so out of place after what both fighters had put themselves through.
Boos? Really? After all that mayhem.
And to see Bradley praising Provodnikov then hear some of the catcalls directed at him, a guy who refused to go down on so many occasions it bordered on the miraculous, speaks to the fickle nature of not only the boxing fan but of the sports fan in general. If ever there was a fight that deserved not only a standing ovation but a salute to the bravery of both fighters regardless of the decision it was this one.
In so many ways this fight brought back memories of Rafael Marquez – Israel Vazquez III back in 2008. Fought in the same ring at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, under the guidance of the same referee and featuring a last second knockdown, they were both breath taking battles fought at a high level and on even terms.
Yet Bradley, for the second time in a row, seems to have somehow alienated more boxing fans, or at least a very vocally select group, because of the closeness of the decision and that final round knockdown. The knockdown, and the knockdown he suffered that was ruled a slip, was apparently how Bradley was viewed – on the canvas, in survival mode.
The fact is, after an uncharacteristic fast start that forced him to show unbelievable resolve when he got wobbled from pillar to post in the first and second rounds, Bradley began to take over with his superior skills. But Provodnikov kept coming, kept the bout exciting and kept Bradley fighting to hold onto his title. And every time he hurt Bradley, the champion refused go down. He made a decision in that ring that said, “I ain’t going anywhere no matter what you hit me with.”
It was thrilling and a bit startling to watch Timothy Bradley in that mode. But that’s what champions are supposed to do. They have just that extra bit more when they need it. A deeper reservoir of will to delve into when things go wrong.
Bradley may not always be as exciting as he was against Provodnikov, he usually isn’t, but he has that certain extra something, and it took a potentially career shortening battle to prove it. Not everyone is convinced, for whatever reason, but at this address Timothy Bradley showed all the special qualities a boxing fan wants in a fighter. He has that certain something. He proved he was special on Saturday night. He proved he defines the word, “champion”.
Matthew Hurley is a full time member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His first book on boxing, Ringside Reflections, can be purchased at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.