Manny Pacquiao conqueror Timothy Bradley got up off the canvas against Ruslan Provodnikov to make a successful first defence of the WBO welterweight title that ‘Desert Storm’ took controversially from the Filipino in June last year.
Bradley, 29, decided to go to war on the inside with the tough Russian and was put on the canvas in the first, which was not scored by Pat Russell as Provodnikov pushed him on the way down.
The champion tried to get up and flew back, clearly hurt by the power of the challenger and walked back to his corner at the end of the round out on his feet.
Amazingly, Bradley came out for round two and did the exact same thing and was almost stopped on more than one occasion. He managed to stay on his feet and survive the pounding, in what was easily at 10-8 round to Provodnikov.
With Provodnikov in need of a breather, Bradley controlled the third round on the outside, which were the tactics he should have employed from the start, to get himself right back into the fight.
The pattern of the fight stayed the same for the next couple of rounds, but with Bradley still shipping huge punches inbetween out-boxing Provodnikov, who had his best round since the second in the sixth.
As before, Bradley came back from reeling on his heels in the previous round to dominate the round in the seventh, before continuing his good work through the eighth and ninth to open two cuts on Provodnikov’s left eye.
More work on the outside by Bradley in the tenth kept him firmly on top as the referee kept close tabs on Provodnikov’s facial injuries as the stanza provided another round in favour of the title holder.
In the eleventh, the two warriors stood toe-to-toe for the full three minutes exchanging blows in what was the round of the fight to set up a barnstorming final session, although the pair were thoroughly exhausted.
In a last-ditch effort, Provodnikov caught Bradley in the final round, rocking him back once again and continued to pound the American until he finally buckled and took a knee on the canvas as Russell began his count.
Just seconds were left as Bradley rose to his feet at the count of seven to make it to the bell and be handed the victory 115-112 and 114-113 (twice) on the cards.
I thought Provodnikov did deserve to lose, but with the knockdown and his mammoth second round, my scorecard read 113-113, which would have mimicked two of the judges had they not scored the second round 10-9. (click here for scorecard)
In chief support on the HBO televised card, Jessie Vargas was given a 97-92 and 96-93 (twice) victory by the judges after a hard-fought and much closer fight with Wale Omotoso.
A knockdown in the second round that didn’t seem to be and some close rounds that Omotoso looked to have edged, could have argued the case for ‘Lucky Boy’ to gain a close win via split, or at very least a draw.
Vargas didn’t do enough in the fight to credit the nature of the decision as a massive fifth round effort hampered the last few rounds for the punched-out Las Vegas fighter and I had Omotoso a close winner 95 to 94.
23 year-old Vargas takes the win though to extend his unbeaten run to 22-0, whilst Omotoso, 27, drops a first defeat in 25 bouts and fully deserves the opportunity for a return after a compelling contest.