On March 16, 2013, Timothy Bradley Jr. and Ruslan Provodnikov slugged it out in the consensus fight of the year.
Bradley won a highly competitive unanimous decision but walked through fire to win the fight and retain his welterweight world title. Provodnikov was like an animal, badly hurting Bradley and nearly knocking him out in the first round, then knocking him down in the final round. Bradley has repeatedly said he barely remembers the fight, and that he fought most of it with a concussion.
There are legions of boxing fans who would like to see a rematch, which would be especially spicy now that Bradley has thrown in with trainer Teddy Atlas, while Provodnikov left Freddie Roach to hire Joel Diaz, Bradley’s career-long trainer until he was fired a couple months ago. How about that storyline?
Bradley (33-1-1, 13 KOs) and Provodnikov (25-4, 18 KOs) both fought on Nov. 7. Bradley knocked out Brandon Rios in the ninth round in Las Vegas to retain the title he had regained in June. Bradley had originally lost that title to Manny Pacquiao two fights after facing Provodnikov.
Provodnikov, a former junior welterweight titleholder, shook off his April loss to Lucas Matthysse in their hellacious fight of the year contender to knock out unknown Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez in the fourth round in Monte Carlo.
And now Provodnikov, filled with confidence after his victory and happy with Diaz, wants a rematch with Bradley.
"This was a good win for me. I felt confident and my defense already felt better,” Provodnikov said. “I know that in the next camp things will come together for me and Joel's training. My goal for next year is to avenge my losses to Lucas Matthysse, Mauricio Herrera, Timothy Bradley and Chris Algieri."
But Bradley is at the top of his list.
"Well if Bradley is a fireman, it is Ruslan that brings the inferno to the fight,” said Diaz, mocking Atlas’ memorable corner pep talk in which he yelled at Bradley that they were firemen getting ready for the heat they expected Rios to bring. “If they rematch it would be a tough fight. After the first fight, everybody knows that Bradley was scarred from the bout. Bradley was damaged, and in a rematch, that is what Bradley would be thinking about, and he would not be focused. Ruslan would take the initiative and knock him out."
Diaz liked what he saw from Provodnikov in Monte Carlo.
"This was a fight to get him back after the tough fights,” Diaz said. “We had a strategy of working on defense and body punches. He did a little more of that than he did in previous fights. It will take a couple of fights to get him to where I want. After the fight, he said he wanted to redeem his losses to Matthysse, Bradley and Herrera. I like that, and there are other opponents, such as Danny Garcia. That would be a great fight because they are both heavy hitters.”
Promoter Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions said he would try to deliver a big fight to Provodnikov.
"Ruslan looked great. The collaboration between Ruslan and Joel Diaz is going well," Pelullo said. “This win sets everything up for a big 2016. He indicated to me that he wants to avenge his losses and also seek the biggest fights. I think he is in prime position to do just that. I expect to have him in a big fight in the first quarter of 2016."
Bradley has not mentioned a Provodnikov rematch being of interest to him. He could wind up facing Canelo Alvarez at junior middleweight should Alvarez defeat middleweight champion Miguel Cotto on Nov. 21, or he could face Sadam Ali in a mandatory defense.