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March 18, 2013

By Leon Cowan

Over the weeekend, we saw the best of boxing in Timothy Bradley's thrilling and narrow victory over mostly unhearlded Ruslan Provodnikov. From the opening bell, it was manic violence from two first-class tough guys. Bradley, who in his last fight was credited with a win over Manny Pacquiao that most diagreed with, can’t seem to escape controversy nor can he escape being labeled one of the most stubborn competitors in the history of boxing. Just when you think he is on the verge of getting beat, he rebuffs and rebukes the cynics. Even in defeat, Provodnikov seems to have joined Bradley in the “hardcore” hall of fame. He never relented as he marched right into a hail of incoming assaults from a seasoned pro in Timothy Bradley. Despite the new loss on his record, Provodnikov's stock certainly shot up in value. 

Going into the fight, many predicted that the all-around technique of Bradley would lead to a lackluster shutout. Provodnikov was a fighter known mostly for his punching power and ability to absorb punishment,. The weltwerweight bout turned out to be a war.  Bradley and Provodnikov, while not always pretty, left little doubt that they were willing to do whatever their body, mind and spirit are capable of to win a fight.

Bradley’s trainer Joel Diaz may have been inclined to have his fighter on his bicycle more often rather than trading with an iron-fisted opponent, but this is what makes champions, the desire to compete over the desire to survive. Looking into the eyes of your family members during a clinch or even just in your mind as an adversary smashes punches into your hips and eyes. This is the mark that is branded on the elite. This is fire that burns in the hearts of a gladiator and it’s why we love the “Sweet Science”.

Bradley and Provodnikov bruised and battered each other from corner to corner and rope to rope asking questions of each other all the way and with each answer the stock of both men rose. Bradley ultimately ended up taking a knee, as the never say die Provodnikov rallied to close out the championship contest.

Ringside there were many luminaries ready when the camera swung their way to give the trademark thumbs up. Celebrities like and Micky Rourke and Tracy Ulman, known fight fans, but fights like this; if not seen by the masses still have mass appeal. One woman attending a live fight for the first time when asked for her opinion of the action said, “It was beautiful.” Imagine that, human beings punching each other to the brink of consciousness being labeled “beautiful!”

This is plight of the oft-labeled “ailing” sport of boxing. It has gained a new fan but not a new reputation as controversy clouds the skies of an otherwise flawless exhibition, which is exactly as it should be. Boxing is forced injury and the more the better. It will never be something that is incontrovertible. It is arguably the most primal embodiment of human conflict and that will always make some uncomfortable, but there will always be those who see the beauty in the struggle and admire combatants who are willing to show the rest of us what it means to put it all on the line.

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