Staggering: Bradley Survives a Brutal War with Provodnikov

by Eric Raskin

There were echoes of the Thrilla in Manila. There were shades of Chavez-Taylor. There was even a taste of what an unscripted Balboa-Creed might look like.

This is not to say that Tim Bradley vs. Ruslan Provodnikov was as thrilling, as memorable, or as iconic as any of those (real or fictitious) fights. There would be varying levels of blasphemy involved in making such direct comparisons. All we’re saying is that Bradley-Provodnikov provided elements of all of the above. And that it was thrilling, memorable, and instantly iconic in its own right.

At the conclusion of 12 heart-pounding rounds, including a final round in which he was quite literally saved by the bell, Bradley retained his welterweight belt by a single point on two scorecards. He successfully followed up his highly disputed decision over Manny Pacquiao and subsequent nine-month layoff with a far less disputed victory. Before the opening bell of Bradley-Provodnikov, ring announcer Lupe Contreras injected the unpopular opinion that Bradley’s “previous performance catapulted him to boxing superstardom.” Twelve rounds after Contreras’ proclamation, however, the case could rightly be made that Tim Bradley had arrived as a boxing superstar.

Read the Complete Timothy Bradley vs. Ruslan Provodnikov Fight Recap on HBO.com.

CompuBox Analysis: Bradley vs. Provodnikov

by CompuBox

Zahir Raheem can certainly feel Timothy Bradley's pain. In September 2005 the tricky "Z-Man" comprehensively out-pointed Erik Morales to score the biggest victory of his career and he had every right to think he would be vaulted into the elite in terms of standing and purse money. Neither happened; the Pacquiao-Morales superfight Raheem supposedly scuttled was made anyway while Raheem sat on the sidelines for seven months before losing a split decision to Acelino Freitas and fading into obscurity.

As for Bradley, his victory over number-one pound-for-pound Manny Pacquiao last June 9 has merited no fanfare whatsoever, mostly because the split decision in his favor was almost universally panned. The "mandated" rematch clause was never exercised -- who'd want to see that fight again? -- and thus Bradley lost out on a second huge purse. Few times in history has a career-defining win resulted in so little reward. Coming into Saturday's fight with Ruslan Provodnikov, Bradley has endured a 280-day layoff -- the second longest of his career -- and that comes on the heels of a career-long 287-day hiatus.

Will "Desert Storm" be motivated enough to fight at his best Saturday or will Provodnikov score his own massive upset? If he does, he'd better hope he has better luck than Bradley had with his.

Read the Complete CompuBox Analysis of Bradley vs. Provodnikov on HBO.com.

Ortiz Fans Turn Out in Force at Weigh-In

Photo: Will HartFloyd Mayweather is the betting favorite. But if the weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday afternoon is any indication, Victor Ortiz will definitely be the crowd favorite.

Photo: Photo: Will HartWith ring announcer Michael Buffer and comedians Kevin Hart and Paul Rodriguez acting as emcees, the fans booed every mention of Mayweather and exploded for every utterance of the underdog Ortiz’s name. Not that anyone should be surprised that the Mexican-American fighter would own the crowd on Mexican Independence Day weekend. Ortiz brought fans both from his native Garden City, Kansas and his adopted hometown of Oxnard, California, not to mention those without any geographical allegiance who simply support Ortiz—or are praying for somebody to finally defeat Mayweather.

It was Mayweather—the title challenger, ostensibly, but the man with more to “defend” in a sense—who entered the arena first, looking relaxed and vaguely dapper in a forest-green track suit. “Vicious Victor” came out next, to resounding chants of “Or-tiz! Or-tiz!” from the approximate crowd of 4,000, though it’s uncertain how much of his fan support he could hear with his oversized noise-canceling headphones on.

Photo: Photo: Will HartThere was a brief discussion between the fighters over what the weigh-in order would be, and Mayweather apparently won the debate, as it was Ortiz who stripped down to his boxer shorts first. He looked chiseled and confident as he scaled the welterweight limit of 147 pounds. But then Mayweather and his famous eight-pack of abs showed what “chiseled” really looks like, and Buffer announced his weight as 146½.

Ortiz played to the crowd, and his supporters let loose with a chant of “41-and-1,” which is how Mayweather’s record would read if he loses on Saturday night. The crowd reached new decibel levels moments later, when Mayweather and Ortiz engaged in what has become something of a tradition: the nose-to-nose, jaw-to-jaw verbal joust that can only end when managers, trainers, and bodyguards yank them apart.

This time, however, Mayweather got his right hand around Ortiz’s neck for a moment before they were separated. It’s hard to know whether that inappropriate use of hands gave him the upper hand mentally going into Saturday’s showdown, or whether it will spur Ortiz on to an emotional edge.

On the scales for the undercard fights: Erik Morales and Pablo Cesar Cano both weighed the junior welterweight limit of 140 pounds, and the 21-year-old Cano didn’t seem fazed at all by the moment … For a non-title bout with a 142-pound limit, Jessie Vargas came in at 142, Josesito Lopez at 140½, and an intense staredown gave way to shoving that did nothing to diminish the sense that this could be fiery battle … And at Staples Center in Los Angeles, a smiling Saul “Canelo” Alvarez scaled 153½ and a deadly serious Alfonso Gomez came in at 152½ for their junior middleweight bout.

War of Words: Mayweather Forces the Fight at Final Press Conference

By Eric Raskin

Photo: Will HartThe three judges who will be sitting ringside at the MGM Grand on Saturday night weren’t scoring Wednesday’s final press conference at the Hollywood Theatre. But that doesn’t mean the press conference doesn’t count.

When Floyd Mayweather and Victor Ortiz faced off via their respective microphones, both were looking for that mental edge, that minor victory that will pave the way for a major one three days later. And just like in a fight, both seemed to enter with a game plan but were prepared to make the necessary adjustments.

Photo: Will HartMayweather went on the offensive first, coming after Ortiz’s trainer, Danny Garcia, after Garcia insinuated that Mayweather is a dirty fighter.

“We all know how you fight,” Garcia said. “Yeah, I win,” was Mayweather’s snappy retort. Then he proceeded to assert himself as the A-side and the alpha dog. “All these people are here because of me. I’m pay-per-view. I’m doing the numbers.”

When it was Ortiz’s turn, he tried to play it cool, opening with the classic defensive strategy, levity. “Finally, man, I was falling asleep over there,” Ortiz joked as he took the podium nearly an hour after the press conference began.

But Mayweather was in no mood for humor, and while Ortiz tried to take command of the room, he couldn’t help but notice Mayweather talking over top of him in hushed tones. “It’s going to be easy work,” Floyd insisted. He was allowed to talk trash, but his friends and family in the audience apparently weren’t; when they tried, Mayweather silenced them, saying, “Carry yourselves with class.”

Photo: Will HartAnd that’s when Ortiz adjusted his game plan, big-time. He was about 30 seconds into what was seemingly shaping up to be a lengthy speech, when his emotions suddenly took over. “Oh, we’re talking about class?” he said in disbelief. Ortiz paused a moment, and ended his discourse abruptly. “Saturday night, I’m going to put you on your ass!”

Mayweather slid to the podium with the calm of a man who’s been here a hundred times before.

“I don’t have to brag and boast about my accolades, it speaks for itself,” Mayweather said, effectively bragging and boasting about his accolades.

“I’m going to go in there with class and leave with class,” he continued. Then Mayweather contradicted himself by saying something slightly less than classy. “I know the real truth, that his father didn’t leave,” Mayweather said, perpetuating the occasionally spoken rumor that parts of Ortiz’s backstory are exaggerated, but never expanding on his assertion.

By the time the two fighters were nose to nose, posing for staredown photos and jawing at each other, you got the sense their dislike for each other was very real. But it’s hard to know for sure; boxing press events are often one part reality, one part performance art.

Whichever this was, Mayweather was the clear aggressor in their mental scrap. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he scored any points.

Also on hand at the press conference were undercard fighters Erik Morales, Pablo Cesar Cano, Jessie Vargas, and Josesito Lopez, plus Canelo Alvarez and Alfonso Gomez had their say via satellite from Los Angeles. For more on all of those matchups, see our Undercard Overview.

Undercard Overview: Morales, Alvarez Offer Early Action

By Eric Raskin

Photos left to right: Ed Mulholland, Jan Sanders, Hoganphotos.com

Two themes carry across the televised undercard of the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz event: (1) A plethora of top Mexican and Mexican-American attractions are featured, this being Mexican Independence Day weekend; (2) Generation gaps are on display, with young prospects facing hardened veterans in all three fights. Here’s a glimpse at the matchups and what’s at stake:

Saul Alvarez (37-0-1, 27 KOs) vs. Alfonso Gomez (23-4-2, 12 KOs), 12 Rounds, Junior Middleweights

“Canelo” Alvarez is the burgeoning mega-attraction in North American boxing. With skills that seem to improve with every fight and power that’s been there from the start, the 21-year-old Mexican is the favorite over the 30-year-old Mexican-American Gomez, best known for capturing viewers’ hearts as the plucky underdog on the first season of the reality show The Contender.

Gomez is not just some reality-TV fabrication. Since losing to the much larger Peter Manfredo in the semifinals of the Contender tourney back in 2004, Gomez has gone 11-1-1 with the lone defeat coming against Miguel Cotto. He beat Jesse Brinkley, Jesus Soto-Karass, and Jose Luis Castillo and ended the career of Arturo Gatti.

But if Alvarez is what he’s billed to be, Gomez might be in over his head here. Fresh off a thorough destruction of Ryan Rhodes, Alvarez is regarded already as one of the top three or four 154-pounders in the world and should be ready to fight for the top spot by 2012.

Erik Morales (51-7, 35 KOs) vs. Pablo Cesar Cano (22-0-1, 17 KOs), 12 Rounds, Junior Welterweights

Morales has seen it all in his 18-year pro career, so he wasn’t particularly rattled by having to endure three opponent switches for this fight. What he ended up with is a bout against someone who was all of three years old when “El Terrible” turned pro. The 35-year-old Morales meets the 21-year-old Cano in a fight where the action is assured but the competitiveness is uncertain because, well, everything about Cano is uncertain.

Here’s what we know: Cano likes to slug it out, he’s undefeated but has faced nobody close to Morales’ level, and he’s trained by Rudy Perez, who just happens to be the longtime trainer of a guy named Marco Antonio Barrera. As you may recall, Morales and Barrera aren’t best buddies. So that plotline should be fun. And of course, regardless of the opponent, there’s the ongoing intrigue over just how far Morales can take this unlikely career comeback.

Jessie Vargas (16-0, 9 KOs) vs. Josesito Lopez (29-3, 17 KOs), 10 Rounds, Junior Welterweights

This one smells like a show-stealer. Vargas is the 22-year-old hot prospect, Lopez the 27-year-old veteran who’s spent much of his career bumping off hot prospects. Both will be looking to make a statement—and there’s some pressure on Vargas because he’s a Mayweather protégé who has been propped up by “Money May” as the guy Amir Khan needs to defeat in order to “earn” a fight with Mayweather.

In the last two years, Lopez has beaten Mike Dallas Jr., Martin Cordova Jr., and Patrick Lopez, three up-and-comers with a combined record of 53-2-2. His bid to add the gifted Vargas to that list looks like a 50-50 proposition.

Mayweather-Ortiz Undercard Takes Shape With Alvarez-Gomez, Morales-Matthysse and Vargas-Lopez

September 17 is shaping up to be a memorable night of boxing, with three additional marquee fights from two locations supporting the mega-fight between Floyd Mayweather and Victor Ortiz at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Canelo Alvarez vs. Alfonso Gomez

Photo: Hoganphotos.comImmediately preceding the main event, fast-rising phenom and WBC Super Welterweight World Champion Canelo Alvarez (37-0-1, 27 KOs) will take on Alfonso Gomez (23-4-2, 12 KOs) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Gomez isn't at all intimidated by Canelo's recent successes, including an emphatic 12th round TKO of Ryan Rhodes in his last fight. "I know Canelo trains hard and he is not a champion for nothing, but I have experience and I will be the champion of the world," Gomez says. "I am going to ruin all of their plans.  I am going to unleash this beast that is within me." Alvarez prefers to let his fists do the talking.  "I don't like to talk too much, so I’ll keep it short," he said at a recent Los Angeles press conference. "Everyone here knows the Mexican saying 'a dog that barks, does not bite.' On September 17, Alfonso Gomez will know who Canelo is."

 

Photo: Hoganphotos.com

Erik Morales vs. Lucas Matthysse

A legendary fighter and future Hall of Famer, "El Terrible" Morales (51-7, 35 KOs) continued his comeback after a three year layoff with a thrilling razor-thin majority decision loss to Marcos Maidana in a Fight of the Year candidate. Now he'll take on Maidana's equally hard-hitting countryman Lucas Matthysse (28-2, 26 KOs). Morales will be fighting for his own legacy as well as that of his country's—September 17 is Mexican Independence Day. "I am going to train harder than ever to make the Mexican people proud and to be victorious on September 17." But don't expect Matthysse to roll over. "I cannot wait to get in the ring and fight Erik Morales," Matthysse says.  "I will do anything and everything I can to walk away from this fight as a world champion."

 

Hoganphotos.comJessie Vargas vs. Josesito Lopez

Talented prospect Jessie Vargas (16-0, 9 KOs) turned a lot of heads with his performance against Walter Estrada on July 8. But Josesito Lopez (29-3, 17 KOs) plans to make a habit of derailing young fighters on the fast track, as he did against Mike Dallas Jr in January. "I haven’t lost a fight in over three years and I don't plan on losing this one," Lopez said at a Los Angeles press conference. "Jessie Vargas might be undefeated now, but he won't be after September 17.