Road to Pacquiao-Bradley III Part 3: 2013
By Hector Franco
2013 is a year that is remembered fondly by all boxing fans. It’s been regarded as one of the best years the sport has had. There were blockbuster PPV’s and great fight of the year candidates. Fights that fans actually wanted to see, occurred. For Timothy Bradley, 2013 was the year he regained his respect. Bradley was able to put in two memorable performances. The only element missing in 2013 was a big fight featuring Manny Pacquiao. It seemed strange to see such a great year in boxing, without its most exciting fighter. It goes to show that no one man is bigger than the sport.
Going into 2013, Timothy Bradley had a chip on his shoulder. He was angry about the way he was treated after the Pacquiao decision and had something to prove. He may have chosen the wrong opponent to come back against with that attitude. Timothy Bradley signed to fight Russian 140-pound fighter Ruslan Provodnikov. Provodnikov was best known for his fights on ESPN against the likes of Emanuel Augustus. Most notably his fight in 2011 against Mauricio Herrera. A bout that could have been scored either way and left both men looking grotesque afterwards. To many Bradley had picked the perfect opponent to come back against. The logic was that Bradley would be able to easily outpoint Provodnikov. For Provodknikov this was his chance to get the stigma of being an ESPN level fighter off of him. Bradley in Provodnikov also had the opportunity to face off once again with Freddie Roach. Roach had recently started training Provodnikov.
The fight began at a fast pace. Bradley wanted to put a hurting on Provodnikov and let him know that he wasn’t afraid to exchange with him. In the last 30 seconds of the round, Provodnikov landed a right hand that hurt Bradley during an exchange. There was a late reaction by Bradley and he went to the floor. The referee didn’t see the punch land, but it was clear Bradley was hurt as he stumbled to his feet. The referee missed the knockdown. In the next round, Provodnikov battered Bradley all over the ring. Punishing blows by Provodnikov were landed on Bradley and it was quite a sight to witness Bradley take all these punches. It was a round that could have been scored 10-8, even without a knockdown. Bradley smartened up in the next few rounds as he decided to box Provodnikov from the outside. Provodnikov was unable to get passed Bradley’s jab and he was being outworked.
In the sixth round Bradley proved that the saying “willing to die in the ring” was true when it came to him. In the last 30 seconds of the round Provodnikov hurt Bradley and landed some of the most brutal punches one can land on another fighter. It was a miracle that Bradley didn’t go down. The sixth round was the final lesson Bradley needed as his trainer Joel Diaz was threatening to stop the bout if Bradley didn’t listen to him and box. Bradley followed the game plan for the remaining rounds in the bout. It wasn’t until the 12th round that Provodnikov was finally able to hurt Bradley again. Bradley at the end of the 12th round took a knee to stop the battering. Bradley had survived. The scorecards were read and Bradley was given the decision. At the end Bradley and Provodnikov had both gained a new found respect from boxing fans. The bout won 2013's fight of the year. Bradley would now look to one up this performance by defeating Pacquiao's greatest rival.
With Bradley getting the decision over Manny Pacquiao in 2012 he was awarded the WBO welterweight title. Juan Manuel Marquez was set on becoming Mexico’s first 5-division world champion. The bout was set to take place in October 2013. At the time Marquez was the favorite over Bradley. Marquez was able to knockout Pacquiao in dramatic and emphatic fashion while Bradley was the perceived recipient of a gift decision over Pacquiao. Triangle theories don’t hold true in boxing. But that doesn’t stop the odds makers from making certain fighters favorites over others. After the Provodnikov fight fans were unsure how Bradley would comeback after taking so much punishment. Marquez had been out of the ring since the Pacquiao knockout and was pushing 40. It was a 50-50 fight for all intents and purposes.
What happened in the ring that night was the culmination of a career’s work. Timothy Bradley would go on to outbox Juan Manuel Marquez to a clear and decisive decision victory. The judges saw the fight much closer than most fans as they gave Bradley a split decision victory. Bradley was able to make Marquez look old on this night and handed him his most decisive loss since the Floyd Mayweather bout in 2009. Bradley had now participated in the fight of the year against Provodnikov and beaten Pacquiao’s greatest rival. Timothy Bradley was back in a big way. Now he just had to wait to how Pacquiao looked in his return.
Manny Pacquiao decided to make his return to the ring a month later in November. The opponent of choice was Brandon Rios. Rios was seen as a safe bet to gauge what ill effects the knockout loss may have had on Pacquiao. The lead up for the bout was more about the relationship between Pacquiao’s former strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza and Freddie Roach. Ariza had been recently let go by Pacquiao. Ariza in his first assignment after Pacquiao went with Brandon Rios as his client. The PPV for Pacquiao-Rios took place in Macao, China. It was a unique venture for Top Rank, but Pacquiao is possibly the biggest Asian athlete in the world so the gamble was worth taking.
For those who were expecting Pacquiao to put on a performance similar to that of his fight with David Diaz back in 2008, may have been disappointed with the Rios fight. Pacquiao won every round and outboxed Rios every which way. Rios seemed befuddled by the speed and angles of Pacquiao. Pacquiao made some adjustments to his game against Rios. Most notably, he was now unwilling to fully commit to an attack and was now aware when he was open to be countered. It was apparent that Pacquiao was no longer the force he was back in his younger days, but that it would still take a great opponent to defeat him.
The stage was now set for a rematch between Pacquiao and Bradley. It would be a crossroads match with both men having much to prove.