Through out boxing history we've seen a fighter taking their big chance upsetting the odds with a stirring and memorable performance and it happened again this past Saturday night as likeable American Chris Algieri (20-0, 8) put on a brave and memorable effort, to defeat the all action Ruslan Provodnikov (23-3, 16) and claim the WBO Light Welterweight world title.
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)
In boxing there is the great adage of "Styles make Fights". This can often be used as a explanation as to why "triangle" theory doesn't work in boxing, but it can also be used to explain why a fight will be great or forgettable. For example two counters punchers tends to make for a some what dull fight whilst two warriors makes for a war.
When the men involved in a fight are fighters like Ruslan Provodnikov (23-2, 16) and Mike Alvarado (34-2, 23), the concept of styles make fights meant we were in for a good one. They are both warriors with heart and power, who whilst technically limited are always there for a fight.
The fighters mentality was obvious from the opening round as the two men engaged in a toe-to-toe battle. Alvarado had tried to fight off the back foot with his boxing skills though was quickly dragged into a war which seemed to suit the more powerful Russian who just sneaked the round despite being forced to take some monstrous shots in return.
Although the opening round was a fight it was obvious that Alvarado wasn't going to just willingly fight Provodnikov's fight. Instead of continuing to trade Alvarado boxed on the move, refusing to give the Russian time to set his feet and in rounds 2 and 3 it appeared that the much anticipated war was going to be less brutal than we had expected. Alvarado was willing to mix it up, but was trying hard to just box and pick his spots well.
Thankfully just as it seemed that Alvarado was going to box for 11 rounds we got a second round of fighting with the two men trading through out round 4. This saw Provodnikov having more success than he had in the previous two rounds. Though the round was close and could have gone either, it appeared that it was the style of fight more suited to the power and toughness of the Russian.
The close nature of round 4 was repeated in rounds 5 and 6 as we saw both Alvarado's movement ad Provodnikov's pressure both having their moments. All three rounds could have swung either way though the likely score at the 6 round mark was 57-57 with neither man deserving to actually be behind.
Unfortunately Alvarado had struggled to make weight and his movement was surely sapping his energy, which hadn't been helped with Provodnikov landing a number of hurtful body shots through the first half of the fight. It seemed likely that if either man was going to slow it was going to be Alvarado and that's what seemed to happen at the very end of round 7 as he was rocked almost on the bell. It had been a very close until Provodnikov rocked the American though it became the start of the end.
Neither man had been down through the first 7 rounds but Provodnikov changed that in round 8 as he took advantage of the fact Alvarado was slowing. Provodnikov landed bomb upstairs to seemed to hurt Alvarado early in the round then followed up with a body shot that sent the American into his shell. A follow up attack soon sent the American down for a 9 and almost saw the bout waved off. Alvarado never got close to recovering and was dropped again as Provodnikov looked for the finish. The heart of Alvarado was the only thing keeping him in the fight as he got up for a second time, though with a 10-7 round against him he was in a serious hole.
Alvarado's legs hadn't recovered by the start of round 9 and in fact he looked like a spent force. Unfortunately it also appeared that Provodnikov was running low on energy himself and fought a very restrained round 9, almost as if he was waiting for an opening rather than forcing one as he had in the previous round. It was certainly a round for the Russian but it looked like he may have lost his opportunity to force a stoppage.
With both men looking tired it seemed that we may, against all the odds, go the 12 rounds. Alvarado was doing a good job of moving and surviving and Provodnikov was doing enough to establish, or extend, a lead on the cards. Provodnikov however seemed to find the energy he needed late in round 10 to change all that as he launched a monster assault with Alvarado on the ropes. This attack seemed like it was going to send Alvarado down for a third time though some how the American remained upright.
At the end of round 10 it was a mystery as to how Alvarado was still standing, though he appeared to have no idea where he was walking to a neutral corner. Thankfully his corner made the right decision to pull him out of the fight before the start of round 11. A decision that may well have allowed Alvarado to return to the ring again as he seemed on the verge of a career ending beating if he was sent out for another round.
Although the fight wasn't quite a fight of the year contender, it was great through out. It combined brawling, fighting, boxing and heart, all the facets of a great fight. It also, for our sake, saw Provodnikov claiming the WBO Light Welterweight world title just a fight after losing a controversial decision to Timothy Bradley at Welterweight.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.