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WBO King Bradley Returns To Ring Tonight Against Provodnikov

Nine months after pulling off a massive, albeit controversial, upset of Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley returns to action this evening, where in the first defense of his WBO welter belt, he'll meet challenger Ruslan Provodnikov at Home Depot Center in Carson, CA.

Could Bradley be heading for a letdown? Will Provodnikov turn the tables on Bradley and pull off a massive upset?

Unlikely, yes, but did you ever predict that Bradley would unseat Pacquiao?

Bradley first burst onto the world scene as a light welter, going on the road in 2008 to upset WBC titlist Junior Witter in England, making six defenses over the next three years and picking up the WBO crown in the process.

The Californian made a side trip to welterweight in 2010, testing the waters in a winning venture against previously unbeaten Luis Carlos Abregu but it was Bradley's bold challenge of Pacquiao in June, 2012 that proved to be the real star turn in an already successful career.

WBO Welter champ Pacquiao and Bradley went tooth and nail for 12 rounds in Las Vegas, with the challenger showing that he could take the Filipino's vaunted southpaw punching power and return fire as well.

When scores of 115-113, 115-113 for Bradley and 115-113 for Pacquiao were read, few in attendance or watching on television agreed with the split decision verdict but it didn't matter, Bradley was the new WBO welterweight king.

The rumored rematch with Pacquiao never came off, with "Pac Man" instead fighting Juan Manuel Marquez for the umpteenth time and getting knocked out in the process.

Meanwhile, Bradley, 29-0 (12), sat on the sidelines as prospective matchups came and went until Ruslan Provodnikov, 22-1 (15), was thrown in the mix.

For the casual fight fan, the name Provodnikov won't ring any bells, and for good reason. The 29 year old Russian hasn't taken part in any high profile fights.

And he's a career light welter, moving up not only to fight at 147 pounds for the first time since a tune up contest in 2010, but also to face his first world level opponent during his first world title clash.

Provodnikov might be facing Bradley in the ring but he'll likely also be fighting all the things that go along with a first step up into the genuine limelight.

Sure, there are a few recognizable scalps on Provodnikov's resume, but they were all years past even a memory of their best; Javier Jauregui, DeMarcus Corley, Emanuel Augustus. for example.

Provodnikov also has a blemish on his record, a 12 round unanimous decision loss to Mauricio Herrera in 2011 for the vacant IBF North American strap.

All in all, it's tough seeing Provodnikov overcoming not only the superior skills of Bradley but the massive edge in experience that the reigning champion brings.

The undercard doesn't have a lot going for it but there is a good matchup between two undefeated welterweights; Wale Omotoso, 23-0 (19), and Jesse Vargas, 21-0 (9).

Vargas, 23, from Las Vegas, has beaten a long list of the usual suspects along with elder statesmen Steve Forbes and Vivian Harris but also has a win, by split decision, over Josesito Lopez.

Australia's Omotoso, 27, defeated a lot of domestic competition, along with Emanuel Augustus, Down Under, before heading to America in 2011, where he's won all six of his bouts against a lot of the same level opponents Vargas has beaten.

They both fought Lanardo Tyner and both won on points by similar margins although Vargas did a little better. Which tell us nothing, but at the end of the day, Vargas vs. Omotoso will probably be a good, competitive fight with the winner starting to enter into contender level bouts.

About Richard Eberline

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