By Jake Donovan
The expectations are simple – Fight of the Year or bust.
It’s not as if Mike Alvarado had enough to live up to, fighting near his hometown and in his first 140 lb. title defense as he faces Ruslan Provodnikov tonight in Broomfield, Colorado. Both are coming off of crowd-pleasing performances that have been mentioned as Fight of the Year contenders.
Alvarado’s last win came with revenge on his mind, avenging the lone loss of his career with a decision win over Brandon Rios in their rematch this past March. The bout wasn’t as thrilling as their first meet last October, but still enough to rank among the best of 2013 to this point.
If there was any fight that was better, it took place two weeks prior when Provodnikov came just short of upsetting Tim Bradley in their welterweight title fight in mid-March. Provodnikov was moving up in weight but pressed the action early, rocking Bradley in the opening round and dropping him in the 12th to add that much more drama to an already incredible brawl.
There’s no question the fans will win with tonight’s HBO-televised headliner. But which fighter will have their arm raised in victory once this one is officially in the books?
Read on to see how the staff at Boxingscene.com believes the action will go down.
PREDICTIONS – MIKE ALVARADO vs. RUSLAN PROVODNIKOV
“Provodnikov in the 11th by TKO.”
- Damien Acevedo (Provodnikov TKO11)
“A year ago, I’d have picked Alvarado and not thought twice about it. Provodnikov came up short against Bradley, but close enough to know he’s good enough to be on the championship level. Not sure I’m convinced Alvarado has it in him to box all 12 rounds, nor do I fancy his chances if/when he gets dragged into a dog fight. Provodnikov rallies to shock the house fighter midway through.”
- Jake Donovan (Provodnikov TKO8)
“Mike seemingly found a happy medium between being an action fighter and boxer in his rematch with Brandon Rios and I think he continues on that path. While a lot of people have been praising Provodnikov and his approach to the fight game I think those very same people forget the heart and courage Alvarado has shown in his last four fights. Now having a title may just be enough for him to put it all together on a consistent basis and I think he keeps Provodnikov honest enough with his power to prevent him from just wading in like he did against Timothy Bradley. Either the fans win with his match up.”
- Ernest Gabion (Alvarado UD)
“It'd be better for those of us outside the ring if Alvarado-Provodnikov develops into the epic war we all want. That obviously isn't what's best for Alvarado. If he can resist the temptation to make this another legendary brawl, he should be able to out-box Provodnikov, much the way he was able to out-box Brandon Rios during much of their rematch. If not, Alvarado will make this fight much more difficult than it needs to be because it's highly unlikely he'll be able to knock out Provodnikov.”
- Keith Idec (Alvarado UD)
“Alvarado will have success early against the heavy hitting "Siberian Rocky". He will hold him at bay with his boxing ability but will start to slow mid rounds and get dragged into a dog fight. Alvarado will be game but his chin will give in before the championship rounds.”
- Tim Kudgis (Provodnikov TKO8)
“I actually had Ruslan Provodnikov ahead of Timothy Bradley on my scorecard, but I don't think Mike Alvarado will make the same mistake of coming out swinging at the Russian. Much like the way he approached Brandon Rios in the rematch, I think Alvarado will change the pace by boxing and brawling intermittently to keep a hard-charging Provodnikov off-guard. Factor in a Denver crowd that will be screaming every time Alvarado throws anything substantial and the judges could award him most of the close rounds.”
- Ryan Maquinana (Alvarado UD)
“Alvarado fought one of the most disciplined fights of his career in his rematch with Brandon Rios. That strategy paid dividends. He fought enough on the outside, keeping the brawler Rios at bay with his long jab, to win a majority of rounds on all the scorecards. He will need to be more disciplined against Provodnikov, who nearly upset Tim Bradley his last time out. I see Alvarado being drawn into the type of slugfest that Provodnikov will press for. Both fighters will have some success early on, but Provodnikov's power and chin will stand out in this war of attrition. I see him taking over around the 4th or 5th round and putting Alvarado down for the count in the mid rounds.”
- Richard Nadjowski (Provodnikov TKO7)
“Mike Alvarado is definitely in a risky fight this weekend against Ruslan Provodnikov. I expect an entertaining battle to be won on points by Alvarado. I feel Mike simply has the ability and still should have enough left in the tank at age 33 to pull out the win.”
- Chris Robinson (Alvarado UD)
“Alvarado is the more complete fighter and will be able to box well early but Provodnikov just keeps coming. So far he's shown an impressive chin and, even boxing, Alvarado can't resist a fight. Both men should be flush with confidence after their last outings but Alvarado may have more wear on him after two wars in a row with the hard hitting Rios. In the late rounds, that should count for enough to give Provodnikov a chance."
- Cliff Rold (Provodnikov KO)
“This fight has the ingredients for a fun fight and I believe for some stretches it will be. But I also think Alvarado and his team will understand using their boxing will benefit them and they won't make the same mistake as Bradley. Provodnikov only has 1 gear and its going forward regardless of anything so he'll press the action all night but I think Alvarado will play matador and strike when he needs to.”
- Luis Sandoval (Alvarado UD)
“Ruslan is so a likable character - I just cannot bet against him. Plus he is my countryman. But truth be told, I consider Provodnikov to be a slightly better fighter than the Mile-High Mike. Ruslan has a deep amateur background, has never been knocked down and has only one clear loss. I think Alvarado will try to box more against the Russian but he will fail as soon Ruslan lands something big. With his overweight it seems to be an issue sooner than later. Then it's gonna be a war - one that Mike's chin will not sustain. It'll be a very fan-friendly fight - don't miss one!”
- Alexey Sukachev (Provodnikov TKO9)
Totals: Mike Alvarado 5, Ruslan Provodnikov 6
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox