Like Provodnikov, who himself made his name by shocking everyone in giving Timothy Bradley an extremely tough test, it seemed being written off spurred on Algieri who really put on an upset of the year type of performance.
It seemed unlikely that Algieri was going to win going in to the fight. It seemed even more unlikely when the challenger was down twice in the opening round and was suffering from a badly swollen right eye that appeared likely to threaten an early conclusion to the bout. It seemed, at that point, that Algieri wouldn't last long under the onslaught of Provodnikov who was bringing intense pressure to the ring.
The pressure of Provodnikov continued to make the action tough but round after round it seemed the Russian was struggling with the difficult and tricky Algieri who was beginning to out work and out land Provodnikov who looked more like he was trying to land single shots rather than work his way in and pin Algieri down. It was a mistake of Provodnikov to try and knock out Algieri in every round with single bombs whilst being force fed a lovely variety of shots from Algieri who was looking better and better every round.
In the middle rounds Algieri's nose began to bleed, his eye became more swollen and his mouth seemed to begin to bleed as Provodnikov's power took it's effect on the American, even though he was struggling to land with any consistent success. It again looked like Algieri was going to be stopped if things got worse but amazing he didn't panic, he didn't worry and more notably he didn't question himself. Instead Algieri gathered his thoughts and continued to box and move, making Provodnikov look stupid as he winged in some wild looking shots.
Surprisingly, given the start, we managed to reach the final bell. Although Algieri was looking like he had been in a car crash he had made his way through the 12 rounds. With the 10-7 opening round however it seemed hard to believe that Algieri had done enough to over-come the champion, especially considering the number of very competitive rounds that seemed likely to have just helped Provodnikov secure his first defence. Amazingly however the judges managed to see Algieri was the winner of a split decision with scores of 114-112 (twice) in his favour whilst one judge managed to see Provodnikov as the winner with a score of 117-109.
Despite the wide variance of the score cards it was a bout that really could have been that wide. It was a case of scoring what you liked and Algieri's work rate, clean accurate punching and effective movement probably did deserve the decision, however a case could be made for the power of Provodnikov being enough for him to claim the close and competitive rounds that could easily have helped him retain his title.
Although Provodnikov lost his belt in a close fight we're very unlikely to see a rematch. Provodnikov made it clear after the fight that he didn't want to fight fighters like Algieri, boxers, and would instead prefer to give fans action fights with fellow brawlers. Hopefully we'll see him in such a fight next time out and maybe battles with Lucas Matthysse, Marcos Maidana, Brandon Rios or even Yoshihiro Kamegai could be organised for a hot blooded winter brawl in a bout that could see both men gaining valuable exposure in a war.
As far Algieri he's going to be a difficult man to match and a difficult man to beat. With a tricky and busy style, a very likeable attitude, great heart and a fantastic personality he's got the potential to be a very good fighter to follow. He may not have a warriors mentality but he's made us fans with his performance tonight.
(Image courtesy of Star Boxing)