Undefeated titleholder Timothy Bradley was coming off a highly-debatable decision win over Manny Pacquiao, while Ruslan Provodnikov was an unknown with the catchy nickname of the "Siberian Rocky".
He quickly lived up to his moniker.
Still smarting from his victory over Pacquiao, Bradley was determined to show his mettle. Provodnikov acquiesced quickly. He likes to brawl. Bradley could have boxed more, but by choosing to slug it out with Provodnikov, the bout quickly turned into a punching free-for-all.
Bradley kissed the canvas in the first round (it was ruled a slip) and was wobbled. In round two, he absorbed some thunderous shots, but came back to tag Provodnikov. Bradley admitted to HBO’s Max Kellerman after the fight that his memory was spotty, due to the hellacious shots he endured.
It was later revealed that he had suffered a concussion during the stanza.
Provodnikov gritted his teeth and kept coming. By the fifth round, his face was a puffy mess. It didn’t matter. The man from Siberia has the heart of a lion.
Nobody has ever questioned Bradley’s heart. With his corner yelling at him to box, he continued to stand in the middle of the ring and slug it out. Defense wasn’t even in the equation.
By the 12th and final round, Bradley was spent. Provodnikov seemed on the verge of stopping him, but Bradley wisely took a knee. Somehow he recovered and lasted the rest of the round. The last minute gave new meaning to the term "fighting on instinct."
According to CompuBox, Bradley landed 218 punches to 186 for Provdonikov, but the slugger from Siberia landed the harder blows.
Both trainers, Joel Diaz and Freddie Roach, said after the match they were close to stopping the bout at different times.
It was that kind of a fight.
Bradley got the decision, but more importantly for him, the respect he craves. Provodnikov drew raves from the boxing community.
And the fans witnessed a fight that most can only dream of.