COMMENTARY I 2013 was a banner year for the sport of boxing. Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez was enormously hyped, with the September contest exceeding two million pay per view buys (Dan Rafael, ESPN). Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios provided a sensational rematch in Alvarado’s hometown of Denver, Colorado. Juan Manuel Marquez delivered the right hand of the year in his stunning knockout of Manny Pacquiao. We won’t soon forget how Marcos Maidana and Adrien Broner delivered twelve rounds of drama in an excellent finish to the year. However, Timothy Bradley’s title defense against Ruslan Provodnikov rises above them all. Why would a fight that didn’t achieve the highest PPV buys, didn’t deliver a definitive KO, and has minimal intent for an immediate rematch deserve the Fight of the Year? Let me tell you why.
Reason One: Expectations Exceeded
Many times mega-fights are so egregiously over promoted that they become nearly impossible to live up to the hype. This was the case with Mayweather-Alvarez. It was a contest between two undefeated fighters that turned into a glorified sparring session. No fault to Alvarez, Mayweather is just that good. However, Bradley-Provodnikov was just the opposite. In what many predicted to be a technical boxing match, to be dominated by Bradley, turned out to be a back and forth slug fest. The Fight of the Year should always exceed expectations, and nobody can argue Bradley-Provodnikov didn’t deliver.
Reason Two: The Audience of Both Fighters Will Increase
Secondly, the Fight of the Year should be a fight in which the stock of both pugilists rise, regardless of who is declared the winner. In this fight Bradley proved he is more than just a boxer, and he seems to have redeemed himself in the eyes of the boxing community after his widely perceived gift decision victory over Manny Pacquiao. As for Provodnikov, although the hardcore boxing fan was familiar with Provodnikov from his bouts on Friday Night Fights, the more casual boxing observer may not have been so familiar with him. They are now.
Reason Three: The Will To Win From Each Fighter Was Exemplary
Further, the Fight of the Year has to contain significant back and forth action. This fight was nonstop back and forth. Provodnikov nearly stopped Bradley in the early rounds, as well as the final round, with Bradley winning enough of the middle rounds to ultimately take the decision on points. Beyond just the back and forth action, nothing is better than the determined spirit of a perceived underdog about to stop the champion for making great competitive drama. Provodnikov entered the ring around a five-to-one underdog (BadLeftHook.com) but he didn’t fight as if he believed those odds.
Expectations were clearly exceeded. The fighting spirit of a lesser known underdog against the determination of a true champion made for great theater, and there will be an increased audience for each fighter going into 2014 as a result of their sensational contest. Hence, Bradley – Provodnikov should stand above many great fights in 2013 as Fight of the Year.