After months of sitting and waiting, Timothy Bradley will finally make his return to the ring in three weeks. On Mar. 16 the WBO welterweight champion will take on Ruslan Provodnikov in Carson Calif. It is hardly the big money, super fight-type match you would expect one to have after knocking arguably the world’s second most popular boxer off his throne, but it’s the one that was set up. And while Provodnikov won’t get much mainstream love, his does have the ability to grind down a guy like Bradley, who is physically incapable of knocking legitimate foes out.
During a recent interview, Provodnikov’s trainer Freddie Roach commented on what he expected to see happen. Naturally, his expectations were based on what transpired last June when Manny Pacquiao fell to Bradley in one of the biggest robberies in boxing history.
"I've heard Bradley say he's going to take the fight to Ruslan," Roach said.
"He said the same thing before his fight with Manny. And when he feels Ruslan's power, like when he felt Manny's, it's going to be a remake of Forrest Gump. 'Run, Timmy, run.' This isn't about Ruslan finishing what Manny started. It's about duplicating it."
Fighting words. And also entirely accurate. Coming into the Pacquiao fight, Bradley’s gameplan was clear. Everyone who ever watched him knew full and well that he lacked the power necessary to put down his Filipino counterpart. That meant he would have to outlast him – which Bradley admittedly sort of did. He avoided getting dropped by Pacquiao despite clearly being dominated for all but three rounds, and as a result, he got a totally undeserved nod from the judges.
Mind you, Bradley getting an unmerited victory over Pacquiao is not his fault. It’s the latter fighter’s fault for not finishing a hobbled opponent, and it’s the judges’ faults for not doing their jobs. Nobody is going to blame Bradley for something that’s totally out of his control.
That being said, the facts are the facts: 1.) he got dominated and 2.) he ran away from Pacquiao at the beginning of every round. The numbers from that match speak for themselves.
As you would expect, though, the fact that Roach was entirely correct in his assessment of last June’s bout didn’t do much for Bradley. He offered this retort to Boxing Scene:
"I’ll just tell Freddie, this is boxing Freddie. Alright? This ain’t MMA. This is boxing. There’s a difference between being a runner, sprinters, they run – I don’t run. I box. That’s what I do. It’s called sweet science, it’s called boxing. That’s what people need to realize that this is boxing. Look at some boxers. Look at Muhammad Ali, look at Sweet Pea [Pernell] Whitaker. Look at Floyd Mayweather. They’re boxers. It’s a hit and don’t get hit sport. A lot of people can’t deal with that. Ruslan Provodnikov ain’t gonna be able to deal with that. So guess what we’re going to do? We’re going to outbox him”
Trainer Joel Diaz was even more animated in his response.
“It don’t bother me at all. If you’re a winner, you got the right to say whatever you want. Floyd Mayweather, he’s a winner [so] he can talk all he wants and he has all the right to because he keeps winning. But when you lose every fight the previous year? Then you get [Jorge] Linares beat, when you get [Amir] Khan beat, when you get Pacquiao knocked out and every other one of your fighters and then you go help the Olympic team and nobody gets a gold medal? – all he wants is attention” he said.
“It doesn’t bother me. Hey, I’ll see Freddie Roach that night and he better bring his A game if he has a game. I got to feel a little sympathy for him as last year wasn’t a good year for him but if he wants attention we’ll give it to him. Maybe I’ll lend him a shoulder to cry on one of these days but for now, he has Provodnikov and I have Bradley”.
So there you go. Standard angry (and somewhat accurate) responses – but not ones that actually pick apart Roach’s point. Bradley did run from Pacquiao. He may or may not employ the same strategy next month. End of story.