Timothy Bradley, right, punches Ruslan Provodnikov in the fourth round… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
Timothy Bradley again was rewarded by boxing judges.
Nine months after receiving a highly suspect split-decision over Manny Pacquiao, Bradley on Saturday night survived steady punishment and a 12th-round knockdown at the hands of challenger Ruslan Provodnikov before emerging with a narrow unanimous-decision victory.
In addition to getting a favorable ruling by referee Pat Russell that an apparent first-round knockdown was instead a slip, Bradley (30-0) was forced to find a champion's resolve in the bout.
Judges Marty Denkin and Jerry Cantu gave Bradley a 114-113 edge and Raul Caiz Sr. scored it 115-112.
"I deserved to win, I deserved to win," Provodnikov (22-2) said. "This should have not been left to the judges."
Bradley survived punishing Provodnikov attacks in the second and sixth rounds to successfully make the first defense of his WBO welterweight title at the Home Depot Center.
The champion leaned on his boxing fundamentals and toughness to squeeze out the decision that again drew some post-fight jeers from the crowd who thought the Russian had won. Punch statistics showed Bradley connected on 347 punches to Provodnikov's fiercer 218, with a 129-32 edge in jabs.
"Having a will like Bradley's is actually a skill," HBO executive Kery Davis said after a fight that elevates the standing of both men.
After Russell's slip ruling following a hard Provodnikov right, Bradley was in big trouble in the second after eating a hard left to the jaw that backed him to the ropes, his legs wobbling.
Bradley said afterward he believed he suffered a concussion early.
"I'm still dizzy," he said. "He's going to be a world champion one day. He's a strong puncher who steps into his punches.
"I'm pretty smart, but this was the type of fight where I always had to keep trying to figure things out. He made it complex."
Instead of finishing the champion, Provodnikov took the third off as Bradley jabbed and regained enough energy to win the round and control an inside-fighting battle in the fourth and fifth.
But the challenger again dazed Bradley with a left to the jaw in the sixth, Bradley retreating to the ropes and throwing punches for show only as Provodnikov sought, but couldn't produce, the finisher against the hardheaded champion.
"Win or lose, you were a warrior," Bradley told Provodnikov in the ring afterward.
"He hits far harder than Pacquiao," Bradley said after the decision was announced. "His punches are shorter and tighter."
After the sixth, Bradley reverted to the boxing skill that made him a two-division champion, winning the seventh through 10th rounds on all four judges' scorecards with more precision and action. The pair squared off in the center of the ring in an entertaining ninth, Bradley landing two hard rights that opened a cut on Provodnikov's left eyelid.
"Because Bradley tried to prove a point and trade punches, he was hurt every round," Bradley trainer Joel Diaz said.
Bradley had been out of the ring since the Pacquiao bout after suffering a sprained ankle and pulled foot tendons that fight, rejecting overtures for a rematch against Lamont Peterson and a bout against lighter Yuriorkis Gamboa.