Ruslan Provodnikov: The New Box Office Attraction in Boxing

Ever since Ruslan Provodnikov exploded onto the scene in his ‘Fight of the Year’ with Timothy Bradley he has been a name that has never far from fight fans lips. The man dubbed the ‘Siberian Rocky’ won an instant place in the hearts and minds of the boxing public after almost knocking out the undefeated ‘Dessert Storm’, on several occasions when he challenged him for his WBO Welterweight title. Despite tasting defeat, one still sensed that he was a dog that would soon have his day.

And so it proved when he finally realised his dream of becoming a World Champion by ripping Alvarado’s title from him in stunning fashion, forcing the Champions to quit on his stool in front of his hometown fans in between rounds 10 and 11.

The coverage in the build up to the fight between Provodnikov and Bradley was compromised by the hype that surrounded the bout between their more illustrious Top Rank stable mates, Juan Manuel Marquez and Tim Bradley. But in terms of excitement, the latter was completely eclipsed by the ‘Fight of the Year’ candidate served up by the aforementioned light welterweight gladiators, both of whom have become synonymous with  the sort of give and take, trench warfare battles that fight fans lust after. Yet, to bill this bout simply as a slugfest featuring two crude brawlers with a slender grasp of the fundamentals would be doing both men a tremendous disservice. It was no chess match. But it was a thoroughly absorbing contest, and a fascinating clash of styles.

Still, for many, the outcome of proceedings was decidedly predictable- Provodnikov by knockout victory.

What was surprising, however, was how Providnikov so intelligently managed to cut off the ring. This, of course, was no coincidence. It was a well rehearsed tactic that was executed with great aplomb. It served to undermine ‘Mile High’ Mike’s fluid movement, compelling him to engage in close quarter exchanges that were bound to get him in big trouble against the irrepressible Russian challenger. Fighting inside of the proverbial phone box is tailored for Provodnikov, who uses his low centre of gravity to launch his awesome offensive arsenal of clubbing left and right cross combinations, followed by his signature, looping overhand right hands that are delivered with a ferocity seldom seen in the welterweight divisions.

The evidence garnered from his last two fights offers conclusive proof that Provodnikov possesses the tools to trouble any fighter in Top Ranks stable. But 2014 could be the year which takes the Siberian Rocky into a different stratosphere. His demolition job on Alvarado may have been the dress rehearsal for a date with destiny with the great Manny Pacquaio, should he prevail against Brandon Rios in November.

But the Siberian Rock must continue to use his fists as dynamite to blitz his opponents and blaze a trail of glory in the boxing world and become the new golden boy of Bob Arum’s Top Rank stable.






Ruslan Provodnikov’s forces Mike Alvarado to Retire in WBO Title Fight

Styles make Fights.

The truest cliché of all in boxing. And it was perfectly applicable to the hellacious battle between Mike Alvarado and Ruslan Provodnikov, in Denver, Colorado, last Saturday night.

The fight, which was valid for Alvarado’s WBO Light Welterweight title, had been billed as a bone-fide fight of the year candidate ever since it was announced by Top Rank promotions. Those predictions proved to be spot on as it was a war of attrition from the beginning to the brutal end.

From the outset, the only two conceivable narratives for this contest were; an Alvarado points victory or Provodnikov by knockout. The majority of boxing observers subscribed to the latter school of thought. Ultimately, the popular consensus prevailed as Ruslan Provodnikov’s murderous punching power forced Alvarado to retire on his stool in front of his hometown fans in between rounds 10 and 11.

The 33 year old, Denver native, is a top fighter and a very tough guy at 140lb. He can both brawl and box as he showed to great effect when he won his title in the rematch against Brandan Rio’s. In that bout, he relied on lateral movement and long range boxing skills more than the brawling and belligerence that led to him being knocked out in their first showdown- 2012’s Fight of the Year. As expected, Alvarado once again adopted a similar strategy in a bid to avoid being dragged into a close range war with the thunderously powerful challenger.

After somehow surviving a brutal onslaught in the 1st round, Alvarado reverted back to the blueprint of keeping Provodnikov at bay with his superior reach and stiff jab, whilst avoiding toe-to-toe confrontation as much as possible. To a certain extent, his game-play was paying dividends as he was able to use the jab to set up his big power shots, which were landing at will, before ‘getting on his bike’ to move out of harm’s way. But Provodnikov remained unperturbed, and continued to stalk his prey, perpetuating the action with looping overhand rights- his money punch- and booming left and right cross combinations that had bad intentions.

By the mid-way point in proceedings, both fighters face’s showed the signs of heavy physical trauma. But, Provodnikov’s demeanour totally betrayed the beaten he had taken, whilst his conditioning told us that there was no chance he was going to wilt going down the stretch. The same could not be said for Alvarado.

As of the 8th round, he could no longer run and had nowhere to hide. As he moved ominously close to the jaws of defeat he twice hitting the canvas- the result of a barrage of brutal blows from an opponent who exuded determination from his every pore.

Despite rallying briefly at the end of the 8th, ‘Mile High’ Mike was on borrowed time. And it became abundantly clear in rounds 9 and 10 that Provodnikov’s relentless persistence would render Alvarado’s stubborn persistence futile. After staggering back to his corner after the 10th, he wisely acknowledged that he simply could not return fire with the ferocious Russian challenger, who deservedly won his 1st World Title to become the WBO Light Welterweight Champion.

However, there is no shame in Alvarado’s refusal to come out for the 11th. On the contrary, I think he should actually be applauded for having the presence of mind to admit defeat. If he had suffered any more physical punishment from the predatory Provodnikov, losing his title would have been the least of his problems. He could have been in a fight for his life such was the severity of the Russian’s ruthless and unrelenting assaults.