Every so often in this great sport we get a must watch fighter who seems to transcend the typical fan base extend of him. One such fighter fighter is Ruslan Provodnikov (23-2, 16), the current WBO Light Welterweight champion.
Provodnikov, dubbed "The Siberian Rocky" for his all action style, is everyone one doesn't expect in a Russian fighter. The text book goes out of the window, the up right stance and educated boxing takes a back seat and instead what we get is a free swinging and somewhat wild looking warrior who does everything in the ring that fans enjoy even if trainers and corner men might not be huge fans. He's happy to take one, or two, or even three in an attempt to launch his own attacks. He's happy to set his feet and swing, he's also happy to chase an opponent in an attempt to cut them off and break them down.
Often with Provodnikov the action isn't pretty. It's not clean cut and smooth. Instead it's violent, rough, tough and bruising. It's as if the fighter has implanted the harsh Siberian landscape on his fighting style and doesn't mind showing it. After all if he survived in the harsh weather at home then he can survive in any ring with any opponent.
Although Provodnikov's style has always been eye catching and his performance on ESPN were often non-stop excitement it wasn't until last year that he managed to come to the attention of the wider boxing public with his great effort against Timothy Bradley. He lost the bout but became an instant fan favourite and his follow up bout with Mike Alvarado saw his popularity grow immensely whilst he also won his first world title.
That title, the WBO Light Welterweight world title, will be defended for the first time this coming Saturday when Provodnikov enters the ring for the first time as a world champion and takes on the unbeaten Chris Algieri (19-0, 8) in a fight that looks like a show case bout on paper for the champion, though promises to be really exciting.
Whilst Provodnikov will be, and deserves to be, the favourite, he's going to be fighting an unbeaten fighter who has a lot of self belief and is a strong man himself. Not only is Algieri strong but he's an intelligent fighter who uses his defence well, as shown in his latest fight against Emmanuel Taylor, moves well and has a very nice variety of punches. There is perhaps a lack of a "special" quality though there is a lot like about Algieri who looks like a fighter who can fight at the top level and hold his own.
Algieri is being shot down by a lot of people online who haven't seen him in action though if they made an effort to watch him they'd realise that he was a very credible challenger for Provodnikov. Sadly though only a handful of opponents are truly suitable for fans who, if they remember correctly, expected Provodnikov to be thoroughly out classed when he fought Bradley before having his break out performance.
What we're expecting is a fun to watch fight that will see Algieri boxing well early on before being dragged into a war with the Russian monster. Sadly for Algieri, though happily for the fans, this is where the fight will pick up and swing towards the defending champion who will begin to wear down the challenger who will fade and eventually be stopped after putting up a brave effort.
Despite feeling like Provodnikov will manage to break down Algieri in the middle rounds there is a chance that the Russian will have under-trained or over-looked his opponent. He was linked to much bigger fights and if the disappointment of fighting the little known Algieri plays on his mind he may well fail to impress. Provodnikov needs to make sure he gets in there and takes care of business in the hope of opening a big door for the end of the year. Bouts against big names are out there if he continues to win and so he needs a big victory here and hopefully that is what is in his head going in to this fight.
(Courtesy of barclayscenter)
When a fight screams "war" every fight fan on the planet should sit up and make a really big effort to watch it. Sometimes they don't live up to expectation, such as the recent fight in the US between Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse, though sometimes time exceed all expectation such as the Kompayak Porpramook and Koki Eto bout from earlier this year.
We have another probable "war" this coming weekend in America as American toughman Mike Alvarado (34-1, 23) attempts to defend his interim WBO Light Welterweight title against Russian power house Ruslan Provodnikov (22-2, 15).
To describe this bout as stylistic eye candy is just stating the obvious. If one man loves a war, it's fair to say so does the other. If one fighter wants to prove he's a man, the other wants to prove he's more of a man. If one of the two wants to go toe-to-toe then the other will answer back. This, is why we love boxing.
Aged 33 Alvarado, known as "Mile High", is a fighter who has only come to the public's attention in his last 3 or 4 fights, all of which were memorable wars as he over came Breidis Prescott, Mauricio Herrera and Brandon Rios, avenging a loss to Rios in the process.
Although Alvarado has only only fought in a handful of notable bouts they were all the sort of battles that shorten careers and take a lot out of the men involved. They were hard, they were violent and they were glorious to watch.
Weirdly despite being known for his wars Alvarado is actually a decent boxer. Unfortunately he shares the mindset of needing to prove his toughness as opposed to proving his boxing and this is why he has been engaged in such vicious battles in recent years. If, and when, he boxes he can look very good as he showed in the second Rios fight though when he forgets his boxing he can get hurt, get rattled and get busted up.
At 29 years old Provodnikov is the notably younger man. Although he to has been involved in wars, including a very exciting bout with Timothy Bradley last time out, he's the sort of fighter with the firepower to make opponents back off.
Whilst Alvarado has burst through in recent fights it's fair to say that Provodnikov had been on the fringes for a while prior to his Bradley bout. He had fought on ESPN several times, beating Emanuel Augustus and being beaten by Mauricio Herrera on two of those occasions. It was in those fights that we saw Provodnikov's limitations as both men found success boxing him, but also his heart and desire to win as he attempted to turn both bouts in his favour.
Whilst Provodnikov had been known about by the hardcore fan base for a few years he wasn't expected to really become a world level fighter, mainly due to his loss to Herrera. Earlier this year however Provodnikov proved he belonged in world class as he pushed Timothy Bradley all the way in a thrilling contest that saw Provodnikov dropping Bradley and shaking him up several times in a thriller.
Although a tough and hard hitting fighter Provodnikov is a fighter who can be out boxed, out thought and out moved. When an opponent moves they can make the Russian look slow and one dimensional, however if they stand in front of him for too long they will be made to pay.
With Alvarado often forgetting his boxing trying to prove how much of a fighter he is, and with Provodnikov being a born fighter we are in for something special. In fact the only limit to this contest could be a case of who can take what. If Alvarado is feeling the effects his battles with Prescott and Rios he may not manage to take too much from Provodnikov in a battle.
If Alvarado chooses to box and can fight to a boxing orientated game plan we feel he'll retain, but something makes us think he'll try to put on a show and this will be his downfall against a thudding puncher like Provodnikov.
Whether Alvarado boxes or not this is the sort of fight where we feel that every moment will be tense. Every round will see something notable. Every minute will make your heart skip. Every trading sequence will remind you why you're a boxing fan.
Video below courtesy of HBOsports.
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