To date, there has been little improvement in cryopreservation of bull sperm due to lack of understanding of the freezing mechanisms. Therefore, this study set out to investigate expression levels of fertility-associated proteins in bull sperm, and in particular the relationship between the 90 kDa heat-shock protein (HSP90) and the sperm characteristics after freezing–thawing. Semen was collected from eight Holstein bulls by artificial vagina. Characteristics of these fresh semen, including sperm motility, morphology, viability and concentration, were evaluated. Sperm quality was also assessed after freezing–thawing. Eight ejaculates were divided into two groups based on freezing resistance and sperm motility. Sperm proteins were extracted and sodium dodecyl sulphate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) analysis and western blotting were performed. SDS-PAGE results showed that there was substantial diversity in 90 kDa proteins in the frozen–thawed sperm and HSP90 was confirmed as one of the 90 kDa proteins by western blot. This study indicated that HSP90 expression correlated positively with sperm quality. The amount of expressed 90 kDa proteins in the high freezing resistance (HFR) group was significantly higher than that in the low freezing resistance (LFR) group (P < 0.05). Thus, higher expression of HSP90 could probably lead to the higher motility and freezing resistance of sperm found after freezing–thawing. Therefore, we concluded that level of HSP90 expression could be used to predict reliably and simply the freezing resistance of bull sperm.