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.