After a nine-month layoff, undefeated rising American star Timothy Bradley will return to the ring on Saturday to face hard-charging Russian challenger Ruslan Provodnikov. On the line will be the WBO welterweight title, the very one Bradley won from Manny Pacquiao last June.
Since his controversial split decision victory over Pacquiao, Bradley has taken time off to heal an injured foot. He is now fully healthy and not only ready to fight again, but ready to stop defending a win he feels he clearly earned.
“The ring is where I belong, it’s what I do and I’m excited to get back in there,” he said. "The controversy surrounding the last fight, if people are on that, then something’s wrong with them. I beat Pacquiao. That’s what they need to realize. I feel like I won and I feel like we can move on.”
In Provodnikov, Bradley faces a fighter who likes to come forward, mix it up, and has won four of his last five fights by knockout. Given his own aggressive style, fireworks are expected.
“It’s easy to get up for a guy like this,” Bradley said. “Every opponent is dangerous if they have two legs and can step in the ring, but I’ve been training hard for Provodnikov. I feel like I’m at my best, especially after the Pacquiao fight, I’ve matured a great deal. It shows in training and a lot of people are going to be surprised.”
An interesting sidebar to this fight centers around Freddie Roach, the Hall of Fame trainer who happens to train both Provodnikov and Pacquiao. He has been adamant in the lead up that in this fight, he will erase the memory of Pacquiao’s loss. As has been the case throughout his career, Bradley is not fazed.
“Freddie Roach is not my concern,” he said. "My concern is Ruslan. Freddie is not getting in the ring and I don’t care what he’s taught him or done with him. I don’t care if the kid has climbed Mount Everest, I know he hasn’t worked harder than me. He can say whatever wants. Freddie likes to play mind games, but I’m not a rookie. I’ve heard it all, seen it all.”
Pacquiao declined a rematch, but Bradley still has the possibility of big fights looming this year as the Welterweight division is loaded. He plans to stay at 147 and defend his title, but says he would drop back down to 140 if the right fight emerges.
“No specific names, but just stay busy, that’s the key,” he said. "I want to fight at least three times this year. I want to take my career to another level, be in the public more, displaying my talent. I have the skills to beat everything they put in front of me and Ruslan is first on my hit list.”
In the months since his last fight, Bradley has had to deal with many things it seems like a guy who just beat Manny Pacquiao should not have to deal with. What no one can question is that he always comes to fight and come Saturday night, he will be able to get back to doing what he does best.
“I always bring a fight. I can box, brawl, mix it up,” he said. "You can always expect that. I’m explosive, determined, and they’re in for something special if they come see me live or watch on TV.”