Unbeaten champion Tim Bradley captured a unanimous, but narrow decision on Saturday over Russia’s Ruslan Provodnikov to keep his welterweight title, despite being knocked down in the fight’s final seconds.
In his first defense of the World Boxing Organization crown that he took from Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao in a shock split decision in June last year, Bradley won by judges’ scores of 115-112, 114-113 and 114-113.
“I think I’ve got a concussion,” Bradley said. “I know I do. No doubt. This guy is a power puncher. He’s a warrior. He’ll beat any 147-pounder out there.”
“One of them punches in one of those rounds [concussed me]. I’m dizzy right now. At some point, that warrior instinct kicks in, the determination, the will to win, and that’s what I counted on,” he said.
Bradley took punishment in the first and second rounds, going to the canvas in each. However, in both cases, referee Pat Russell ruled that Bradley had slipped and so no knockdown points were awarded to the Russian challenger.
Had even one of those been ruled a knockdown, Provodnikov would have earned a draw. Instead, American Bradley improved to 30-0 while Provodnikov fell to 22-2, but impressed by nearly taking the title with a late knockout.
Provodnikov connected with a left hook that sent the champion staggering backwards with 55 seconds remaining in the fight and landed a hard right to stun Bradley again 30 seconds before the finish.
Another left hook sent Bradley into the ropes and he stumbled forward, then fell to his right knee with 10 seconds remaining. Russell counted, but Bradley rose well before the referee reached 10, was pronounced ready to fight and then came the final bell.
“It’s up to the judges, but I think I did everything in there to prove myself,” said Provodnikov, who fought the last four rounds with a bloody gash opened over his left eye.
“I did not feel his punches at all. I went after him the whole 12 rounds,” he said.
Provodnikov, who won his first 17 fights before suffering his first career loss in 2011 to Mauricio Herrera, moved up from the junior welterweight ranks for his world title chance and showed determination from the start.
Bradley shook off the slow start and began dictating the tempo by the fourth round, but Provodnikov answered in the sixth with a stunning left hook to the body, followed by a hard right and a flurry that had the champion on the ropes.
Bouncing back, Bradley landed more punches than the Russian over each of the next three rounds, opening a bloody gash over Provodnikov’s left eye in the ninth, but by the 11th they were both weary, but exchanging power punches again.
“I wanted to jump on him,” Bradley said. “I didn’t want him to get in control. I wanted to work at my pace.”