By Cliff Rold
One of the things that boxing does as well as any sport, even in this niche and fractured era, is find new faces. A deep division can always find room for one more. A moribund class can spring back to life.
Both happened last Saturday.
Whether one thinks Chris Algieri should have been given the nod over Ruslan Provodnikov or not (this scribe did not at a score of 114-112), he proved he belonged after rising from two first round knockdowns. Jr. Welterweight has slipped just a hair from the peaks of a couple years ago as some of its talent has moved up. Algieri is a quality new face to bolster its ranks.
115 lbs. had one of the best runs of any weight class in the 2000s but the end of the reign of Vic Darchinyan was really the end of all that. Since, it’s been a cycle of maybe’s and retreads waiting for something to happen. Over the course of a couple weeks, Carlos Cuadras earned a title (WBC) in the division and now McJoe Arroyo has launched from the pack with a dominant knockout of Tyson Marquez to earn a shot at IBF honors.
Just like that, 115 is getting interesting again. As the depth of Flyweight forces more fighters like Marquez up and new talent emerges, it will only get better. It’s too early for what could be an excellent match between Cuadras and Arroyo. It’s not too early to start thinking about it.
Let’s go the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Provodnikov B-; Algieri B/Post: B: B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Provodnikov B+; Algieri C-/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Provodnikov C; Algieri B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Provodnikov A; Algieri B/Post: A; A
Pre-Fight: Speed – Marquez B; Arroyo B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Marquez B+; Arroyo C/Post: B; B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Marquez C+; Arroyo B/Post: D+; B+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Marquez B+; Arroyo B/Post: B; A
Starting with the smaller men, Arroyo’s performance deserves the highest kudos. He’d never been past eight rounds and decimated one of the more proven Flyweights of recent vintage. Marquez is no easy out. Arroyo made him one. He did it with fine offensive selection, power that was underrated by too much fixation on record, timing, and superior speed.
The Olympic pedigree of Arroyo showed from the start and he never deviated from his gameplan. Even when Marquez dug in for some rallies, he stayed composed and trusted that the next left hook would come. Marquez, a veteran, had no answers for his fellow southpaw.
Arroyo waits for a showdown with the winner of Zolani Tete-Teiru Kinoshita in July. Those two will face off for the vacant IBF belt and Arroyo should off the Marquez win, be seen as a serious threat to unseat whoever emerges. Tete though could be a challenge. He’s won three of his last four by knockout including a stoppage of the talented Juan Carlos Sanchez.
For Marquez, it may be that he’s already on the other side of it at 25. He’s been in a series of excruciating wars with the likes of Luis Concepcion, Brian Viloria, and Giovani Segura. If he’s going to continue on, someone needs to pull the reins a bit and let him get his legs back under him. His defensive liabilities have seen him dropped repeatedly over the years and it’s not going to get easier in higher weight classes.
The defeated at Jr. Welterweight need not hang his head. Even in a loss, is there anyone who won’t want to see Ruslan Provodnikov’s next fight? He’s been must-see TV for years and the spotlight is brighter now. In that spotlight, his mistakes last weekend stood out.
After the early success, he did a little too much head hunting and not enough of the body punching that set up his early success. In a fight with a ton of swing rounds, against a native New Yorker, it cost him.
Credit Algieri for making those swings count. While there was a lot of back foot offense from Algieri, he also did some fine work to the body and landed eye catching, come forward right hands to the face as the fight wore on. His speed and guts got him past a terribly swollen eye and a buzzsaw. Provodnikov landed some shots throughout the fight that might have felled a lesser man.
Algieri stayed in there, stayed off the floor, and kept firing. While these eyes didn’t see him win as many rounds as two judges credited him with, there’s no argument with the verdict. It was a ‘what do you like’ kind of fight. Provodnikov landed harder. Algieri landed more.
Algieri won the coin flip where it counted.
What will that mean for the winner? There is some scuttlebutt about a Manny Pacquiao fight but, for now, that seems more like a leverage gimmick to get Juan Manuel Marquez to the table for a rich fifth fight with the Filipino. As a New Yorker, Algieri has a chance to build on this win and make himself a draw.
He proved he belongs. Now we see if he proves he can stay.
Report Card Picks 2014: 28-12
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]