American Timothy Bradley (30-0-0-1, 12) made the first successful defense of his WBO Welterweight title as he outpointed the brave Russian challenger Ruslan Provodnikov (22-2, 15) in a bout that really had it all.
The fight started at a genuinely hectic pace as the two men stood next to each other and wailed away relentlessly at each other. For Provodnikov this served well as he appeared to hurt Bradley several times and even sent the champion to the canvas on one occasion, though referee Pat Russell called it a slip. The first 2 rounds could both be contenders for round of the year as Provodnikov rocked Bradley repeatedly with the champion firing back and showing his heart.
In round 3 Bradley finally started to show his skills as he boxed and moved against a very tired looking Provodnikov who only threw a handful of punches in the round after having thrown (and landed) a ridiculous number of power shots in the previous round. The challenger was visibly breathing through his mouth and Bradley was targeting the body to try and keep Provodnikov from having a second win.
After clearly winning round 3 Bradley continued to box through many of the middle rounds as he started to fight his way into the bout and take the lead with his superior boxing, speed and foot movement. In fact it was probably Bradley's movement more than anything else that allowed him to establish himself in the bout as Provodnikov struggled to land on when the champion was on his his toes and landing his jab.
Whilst Bradley boxed well through many of the middle rounds he did get dragged into a real war in round 6 that saw both men hurt and both men tagging the other repeatedly with everything they had. This was by far the best rest round in the middle portion of the fight for Provodnikov who appeared to really shake Bradley late on. In fact after the round Bradley's trainer threatened to pull his man out if he got hurt like that again.
The warning from Bradley's trainer seemed to settle Bradley's boxing down again as the champion showed his boxing and bagged the following round clearly as both men seemed to take a breather. Despite round 7 being a much quieter round than the previous one Provodnikov's face was starting to look a mess and Bradley started to target it opening up a nasty cut on the challengers eyebrow in round 9 that looked like it could threaten an early finish to the bout.
With his face starting to mark up and the blood seeping from his eye, Provodnikov was forced to show that he deserved to be in the bout and that's exactly what he did in the final 3 rounds as he tagged Bradley hard to end the 10th then and started the 11th fast.
The final round saw Provodnikov having arguably his best round since the 6th as he set out with the intention of stopping Bradley and he seriously rocked him several times before forcing Bradley to a knee late in the round. Bradley took his chance to collect himself and survived to the bell before celebrating what appeared to be a hard fought but relatively clear victory.
Surprisingly the score cards were closer than many had imagined with Bradley claiming scores of 114-113 (twice) and 115-112 to take a unanimous decision and retain his title in one of the more memorable bouts of the year.