Big Story #1: Bradley-Provodnikov
Tim Bradley, making his return to the ring nine months after his disputed win over Manny Pacquiao, waged a fierce war with Ruslan Provodnikov that turned out to be a fight for the ages. Bradley was hurt in round 1 and faced serious trouble from the heavy-handed pressure fighter in rounds 2, 6, and 12. He was knocked down in the final seconds of the 12th but made it back to his feet to hear the final bell. In other rounds, Bradley boxed beautifully and hit Provodnikov at-will with his full arsenal of punches; he scratched out a close, unanimous decision. It was an unforgettable fight filled with drama, momentum shifts and carnage.
Big Story #2: HBO pulls the plug on Golden Boy
After seeing a steady defection of Golden Boy fighters to Showtime, HBO took the unusual step of publicly announcing that it would no longer be in business with the promoter. Following the doctrine of preemption, HBO turned the tides on Golden Boy and further disassociated itself from influential advisor Al Haymon, and his large stable of fighters.
A Damn Good Month:
Mike Alvarado: Surviving some vicious shots from Brandon Rios early in their rematch, Alvarado boxed his way to a victory and pulled off the upset. Alvarado made many changes for the rematch, including shortening his punches, changing his stance and reducing his punch output. Alvarado impressed a lot of people with his boxing intelligence, discipline and coachability.
Tim Bradley: Bradley completely wiped away the bitter taste of his "victory" over Pacquiao with his rousing performance against Provodnikov. Showing heart, toughness and skills (if not quite intelligence), Bradley captivated the imagination of the boxing public with his gutty effort. It was the type of spirited performance that will help broaden his appeal within the sport.
Juan Estrada: In six months, Estrada has gone from an obscure light flyweight to the best flyweight in the world. Just 22, Estrada outslugged pound-for-pound fighter Brian Viloria to earn a decisive victory. The Mexican featured a complete offensive arsenal, tricky upper body movement and good hand speed. Estrada may have a big money fight later this year in a rematch against Roman Gonzalez – Estrada lost a competitive decision last year.
Rudy Hernandez: Doing double duty in the Alvarado fight, Hernandez made sure that a bad cut didn't come into play in the second half of the fight and also provided crucial instruction in the corner. Consistently emphasizing that Alvarado needed to box, Hernandez, who was the assistant trainer but took the lead in the corner, did a great job in guiding Alvarado to victory.
Bernard Hopkins: The ageless one continues – this time earning a victory and another title crown by defeating Tavoris Cloud. It wasn't among the best performances of Hopkins' career, but he featured enough combination punching and cunning to neutralize Cloud's offense. He's now at the point of his career where he's breaking his own records.
Macau: The Chinese administrative district hosted its largest international professional boxing card to date. By all accounts the Zou Shiming-headlined, Top Rank promotion was a resounding success. Macau, which has ritzy casinos on par with Las Vegas, will be a player for Pacquiao's next fight.
Roman Martinez: The two-time junior lightweight titlist always seems beatable and his fight against Diego Magdaleno was no different. However, Martinez scored a picture perfect knockdown in the fourth and dominated late to win a split decision. Although not blessed with an inordinate amount of hand speed or skill, Martinez's power and pressure make him a tough opponent for anyone at 130 lbs.
Ruslan Provodnikov: Although Provodnikov didn't come away with the victory over Bradley, he demonstrated his power, even after moving up to the welterweight limit. Despite the loss, Provodnikov ensured that he will be an in-demand fighter on premium television.
Zou Shiming: Yes, he's 32 and it may be too late to make an impact in a highly competitive flyweight division. But symbolically, Shiming’s professional debut will be remembered as a pivotal moment for Chinese boxing.
Robert Stieglitz: Stieglitz came out firing in his rematch against Arthur Abraham and effectively closed Abraham's left eye by the end of the second round. Abraham didn't answer the bell for the fourth and Stieglitz reclaimed his super middleweight belt.
Top Rank: Had a big month on two fronts. First, the company put on three memorable cards with Bradley-Provodnikov, Rios-Alvarado II and the Zou Shiming card from Macau. Second, HBO was impressed enough with its non-Golden Boy product that it expelled Top Rank's bitter rival from its airwaves. A great development for Top Rank, the company now becomes HBO's most frequent content provider.
Shinsuke Yamanaka: The southpaw, heavy hitter from Japan made a stirring defense of his bantamweight belt by knocking out Malcolm Tunacao in the 12th round. Scoring three knockdowns in the fight, Yamanaka demonstrated his expert timing and countering. His straight left hand is special.
Other fighters looking good: Terence Crawford, Keith Thurman and Akira Yaegashi
Not The Best Month Not The Worst Month:
Isaac Chilemba: Chilemba wound up with a draw against Tony Bellew. Conventional wisdom states that a fighter who gets a draw on the road most likely won the fight, and in this case that's true. Chilemba did enough to earn the victory but he was too deliberative starting out. He could have picked up a few more rounds in the judges' eyes by letting his hands go more often.
Golden Boy: It's never a good thing when the biggest U.S. boxing network doesn't want to do business with you. Yes, Golden Boy will be fine, but this new reality with HBO means fewer dates for its premium fighters, not the goal of a promoter. Golden Boy ended the month by announcing a new deal with Fox to start a 24-fight series with its rebranded sports network – a big coup for the promoter.
HBO: The network had an excellent month with Bradley-Provodnikov and Rios-Alvarado II. However, it's not a good sign when some of the most compelling names in the sport will be fighting on Showtime. HBO may be able to save face and further develop its boxing program, but Showtime is here to stay as a well-funded and ambitious rival.
Pat Russell: The California referee had a mixed performance in Bradley-Provodnikov. He missed an early knockdown, which, if called correctly, would have changed the fight to a draw. However, Russell let the fight go 12 rounds when many refs would have stopped it in the second or sixth. Russell deserves a lot of credit for the memorable fight.
Brian Viloria: Viloria lost decisively to Juan Estrada, slowing down in the second half of the fight, unable to match Estrada's punch volume or intensity. However, Viloria had some great moments in the early rounds and landed some enormous bombs. He should have used movement earlier in the fight, which would have reduced the amount of blows he absorbed, enabling him to stay fresh in the late rounds.
Is This Month Over Yet:
Arthur Abraham: Abraham's proclivities for slow starts caught up with him as Stieglitz jumped on him and closed his eye by the second round. Abraham never really got into the fight and his usual strategy of gradually easing his way into a fight turned disastrous.
Tony Bellew: Bellew had a winnable fight against Chilemba and then decided not to move his hands in the second half. For a guy who is so boisterous in the lead-up to his fights, Bellew was downright docile through much of the match. Not a good performance in front of his home crowd.
Tavoris Cloud: Cloud also had a winnable fight, but couldn't pull the trigger against Hopkins. Cloud needed to have a high work rate and attack at close range; neither of those things occurred. For Cloud, his moment to really make a name for himself in the sport slipped away, and he has no one to blame but himself.
Don King: The famed promoter had his most visible fighter lose and the days of Don King fighters appearing on premium television may finally be coming to a close. Don't cry for King; he's had a legendary career. But his time as a top promoter has ended, and even the remnants of his once mighty Kingdom have fallen by the wayside.
Diego Magdaleno: Fighting for his first title, Magdaleno boxed well in the first half of his bout against Roman Martinez. But gradually his confidence eroded and he refused to be as aggressive as he should've been down the stretch. He lost a split decision. If he fought with more intensity, he'd be the champ.
Brandon Rios: On one hand, Rios acquitted himself well in his loss to Alvarado in the rematch. He hurt Alvarado on numerous occasions and demonstrated his grit and relentlessness. However, the fight illustrated Rios' inability to consistently cut off the ring. Now, there is no more talk of him facing Pacquiao later on in the year. Through that prism, last month was a major setback.
Levi Martinez: (115-113 for Viloria over Estrada) I'm not sure that Viloria's family could even find seven rounds to give to its man. In fairness, this was the fourth of five fights that Martinez had to judge on the day, an abominable practice that helps explain, not excuse, his performance.
Charlie Fitch: After the seventh round of Vera-Bondorovas, Fitch went into Bondorovas' corner and asked him if he wanted to continue. The fighter had suffered a pretty bad cut in the sixth round. Fitch heard something in the corner and immediately waved off the fight, giving Vera the win. Bondorovas' Ukrainian cornermen went apoplectic and claimed that they misunderstood Fitch's question. Ultimately, Fitch was way too quick to pull the trigger and didn't adequately explain the situation or listen for appropriate feedback. Not his best moment as a professional.
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
Contact Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org
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