By Ivan G. Goldman
When you beat the king you don’t automatically become a king yourself. Ask Timothy Bradley.
Plans for his first defense of the WBO title he took off Manny Pacquiao last June are chockfull of evidence that his paper victory in a mostly dull contest didn’t do a great deal to increase his star power. The fact that he won by a decidedly controversial split decision didn’t help either. When the WBO paid five independent judges to review the contest, all five scored it for Pacquiao, but the WBO allowed Bradley to keep the title anyway.
Bradley’s bout against Ruslan Provodnikov on March 16 is scheduled for the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. It’s an excellent venue that provides great viewing for on-site fans, but it seats only 8,000. For years now Pacquiao has routinely competed in larger venues. His last four outings were in the MGM Grand, where he often attracted crowds of approximately 13,000 or more. In Dallas he drew more than 41,000 fans when he beat Antonio Margarito and that was a disappointment. Promoter Bob Arum had hoped for a number closer to 70,000 in Cowboys Stadium. In 2010 in Dallas Pac-man drew 50,994 against Joshua Clottey, who had virtually no following of his own.
Ticket prices in Carson have been set at a low-end range — $25 to $200. That will no doubt attract more fans, who may begin purchasing seats as of today. The contest will be covered by HBO. Bradley, especially against a lesser-known opponent like Provodnikov, 22-1 (15 KOs), is not ready for pay-per-view. Though that no doubt bothers him and Arum, fans won’t complain about not having to fork over $60 or so to view proceedings at home.
Provodnikov, 29, who has a fan-friendly aggressive style, was a sparring partner for Pacquiao when he prepared for Bradley. Like Pacquiao, he’s trained by Freddy Roach. But Provodnikov, who hails from Russia, has never faced a world-class fighter in his prime, and he’s moving up from light welter to challenge Bradley, 29-0 (12 KOs). He grew up in Siberia, a region so far out in the provinces that its name is synonymous with distance and exile.
The undercard is still being filled out.
Bradley had two injured feet when he lifted the title off Pacquiao. Though he’s active and aggressive (arguably too aggressive with his head-first style), he lacks one-punch knockout power, and at age 29 he has yet to build a large following. On the other hand, how many fighters these days can summon large crowds, especially against lesser-known opponents? Bradley hails from Palm Springs, about 100 miles east of Carson, which is in the Los Angeles area.
Without doubt both Pacquiao and Bradley wish the fighting Philippines Congressman would have opted for a Bradley rematch. Bradley would have made a lot more money and Pacquiao wouldn’t have eaten that huge Juan Manuel Marquez right hand last December that, to paraphrase Muhammad Ali, shook up the world.
Although he stops relatively few opponents, Bradley, who’s also held the WBO and WBC 140-pound titles, is a true scrapper. He didn’t have the support of any big-time promoters as he rose through the ranks, and he took a lot of short purses to get where he is.
Ivan G. Goldman’s critically acclaimed novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. Information HERE