Tim Bradley – didn’t look cheery to start but soon enough his smile kicked into gear at Wednesday press conference. (Al Applerose)
LOS ANGELES-If you know Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley then you realize that it’s out of character for the WBO welterweight titlist to look like a mortician on a busy day. Usually he’s all smiles.
But if you had beaten Manny Pacquiao and were contracted for a rematch that wasn’t enforced, then you too might have reason to look so glum.
Nearly nine months after Bradley’s (29-0, 12 Kos) last win, the Palm Springs boxer sat with a look of gloom on Wednesday at the beautiful and historic Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Russia’s Ruslan Provodnikov (22-1, 15 Kos) was also present and will challenge the man who beat the man.
It was odd to see the usually cheerful Bradley with a look of stone and disdain for the first hour of the Top Rank press conference. Even Bradley’s manager Cameron Dunkin looked pretty gloomy for someone that’s not stepping in the ring. On this day Todd DuBoef emceed the conference.
Slowly the face of Bradley began to change as the various parties began to speak on behalf of the fight card and what all expected to occur at the Home Depot Center on March 16. Ever so slowly the frown became a smile and the excitement began to build on Bradley’s face.
Back in 2004, when the speedy athleticism of Bradley was first sampled in a professional boxing ring, the desert fighter was always smiling and cheerful. Boxing is what he loves to do. But the business portion is another matter entirely.
“I’m not surprised,” said Joel Diaz, the trainer for Bradley. “This is the business of boxing.”
Instead of blasting into the stratosphere of prizefighting where only a few such as Floyd Mayweather and Pacquiao reign, the Palm Springs prizefighter was forced to wait for a fight to his liking.
“I thought it would open the door to his career but it got worse,” said Diaz.
Instead of a rematch with Pacquiao, the WBO titleholder Bradley was pushed aside and watched as Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez was given the fight. Pacquiao was knocked out by Marquez and perhaps aided by a slight dose of karma.
For the last eight years Bradley has fought the toughest junior welterweights in the world and one by one eliminated each of them until defeating Pacquiao by decision. His reward or labor is a fight with the fairly unknown but dangerous Provodnikov.
The powerhouse Russian prizefighter will be confronting his third boxer from the Inland Empire when he faces Bradley. His only loss came to Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera two years ago in Las Vegas. It was one of the best fights that year. This past summer he stopped I.E.’s Jose Reynoso in the second round. Now he faces yet another I.E. fighter in Bradley.
“It’s definitely the fight of my life,” said Provodnikov through a translator. “It’s a dream come true for me.”
Provodnikov trains at the Wild Card Boxing gym under the supervision of Freddie Roach, who was not present at the press conference. If anybody knows Bradley’s boxing style and can make adjustments, it’s Roach.
Bradley smiled a little more when Provodnikov began to speak. It was as if a cloud of despair had suddenly been lifted from his career. You could see in the champion’s eye that he realized he would be performing once again in front of a crowd. This time in front of a Los Angeles crowd in a venue known for staging some of the greatest fights in history the past six years.
“Glad to be back,” said Bradley with a smile. “For the most part this is going to be a great fight.”
HBO’s Tony Walker perhaps put it best.
“We’re delighted to have Tim Bradley back in the ring,” said Walker. “He still is one of the best fighters pound for pound.”
Bradley cordially walked over to Provodnikov’s team and shook their hand.
“It’s going to be a tough, tough challenge,” said Bradley, with somewhat of a sigh of relief. “My home is in the ring.”
Former Mexican Olympian Oscar Valdez will be on the Home Depot card on March 16 too. The Sonora born Valdez has captured two knockout wins in two fights and is managed by Frank Espinoza.
“It’s an honor to be on this great card,” said Valdez, 22, who lives in Tucson. “Tim Bradley is one of my favorite fighters.”
Espinoza predicts a big future for his protégé.
“Oscar is a star in the making,” Espinoza said. “Come and witness the rise of boxing’s future.”
Another prospect, Gabino Saenz (8-0-1) of Indio will also take part on the Top Rank fight card.
“I’m looking to put on a great show for my fans,” said Saenz, a student at Cal State University San Bernardino. “I’m determined to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Tickets are now on sale at Ticketmaster.