by Cliff Rold
This one is for the meat and potatoes crowd.
In a week abuzz with discussion of Saturday’s documentary on the Arturo Gatti-Mickey Ward trilogy, HBO (9:45 PM EST/PST) headlines with a fight that has the potential to provide action of that class. Already this year, both combatants have appeared in a Fight of the Year candidate.
Can they steal thunder from themselves?
There’s a lot on the line. The winner could be a viable option for WBO Welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley, the winner of Manny Pacquiao-Brandon Rios, or a likely still active Juan Manuel Marquez.
The loser might too.
Boxing is great. This is a fight.
Fights are what we really come for.
Let’s go the report card.
Title: WBO Light Welterweight (2013-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 139.85 lbs.
Hails from: Denver, Colorado
Record: 34-1, 23 KO
Rankings: #2 (BoxingScene), #3 (ESPN, Ring), #4 (TBRB, BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 1-0 in interim title fights
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 3 (Carlos Molina MD8; Cesar Bazan KO4; Brandon Rios TKO by 7, UD12)
Title/Previous Titles: None
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 141.3 lbs.
Hails from: Beryozovo, Russia
Record: 22-2, 15 KO
Rankings: #6 (BoxRec, Ring), #9 (BoxingScene, ESPN), #10 (TBRB)
Record in Major Title Fights: 0-1
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 15 (Javier Jauregui TKO8; DeMarcus Corley UD12; Timothy Bradley UD12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Alvarado B; Provodnikov C
Pre-Fight: Power – Alvarado B+; Provodnikov B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Alvarado B-; Provodnikov C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Alvarado A; Provodnikov A
Both men have come along the hard way, plying their trade in tough fights and earning their spots on the marquee by giving fans what they paid for. Provodnikov has been a staple of ESPN2 while Alvarado was a highlight of Top Rank cards and pay-per-view undercards for years. A pro two years longer (Alvarado turned professional in 2004), Alvarado enters the older man and also the man with homecourt.
The fight takes place in Denver.
There have been questions about how the altitude will affect Provodnikov. The Russian commits himself to a grueling pace and style. He comes forward all night. There have been concerns that he didn’t head to Denver soon enough. Could that be telling in a long fight?
Considering the type of fights he’s used to, the answer is likely to be no. Win or lose, altitude is likely to be less a factor than what Alvarado dishes out. Of the two, Alvarado is the more apt technician. He showed in his revenge rematch with Brandon Rios that he could stay out of the fray just enough to score the points he needed. Rios, like Provodnikov, is relentless and throws in higher volume.
Where Provodnikov may trump Rios is in sheer sturdiness. Alvarado hurt Rios in their second fight. It remains to be seen if he can do the same to the Russian. Provodnikov is a block of man that dares an opponent to try to move him back. His chin has been impeccable. He’s not a one-punch killer but he has heavy hands and they wear on his foes, as does his will.
There’s something exhausting about a man who takes a big shot and is still standing there waiting to land his own.
While both men enter off wars, it is Alvarado who may have taken more recent punishment. He is the better defensive fighter of the two, able to use space and his legs better. But Alvarado doesn’t appeal because he emulates Pernell Whitaker. He still fights first and nights with Breidis Prescott, twice with Rios, and Mauricio Herrera all added miles.
Of course Provodnikov couldn’t get by Herrera. He was competitively outboxed in that affair. A disciplined Alvarado can look to win rounds and do the same. Will he? While Provodnikov’s war with Timothy Bradley had to take its toll as well, Bradley perhaps isn’t as punishing as Rios. As the younger man, Provodnikov may be the fresher force.
The crowd is Alvarado’s and they’ll want blood. Provodnikov isn’t afraid to bleed. He’s going to make for a long night. Can the Russian overcome technical disadvantages and outfight the defending titlist?
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. Even if he boxes early, 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.
Motivation is a factor. Provodnikov needs this win more than Alvarado. Even with a loss, Alvarado still has the profitable option of a third Rios fight. No matter the increased appreciation the Bradley fight brought, two straight losses would be a big setback for Provodnikov. The chance to make his career, and set the table for a big 2014 payday, is now.
This is unlikely to end early and should have some dramatic shifts with Alvarado holding a lead well into the second half of the fight. Provodnikov’s ability to chip away will be a factor over twelve rounds and the thinking here is that as Alvarado slows to exchange late, it will be the Russian landing first and cleaner. The pick is Provodnikov on a dramatic late rounds stoppage.
Report Card Picks 2013: 40-24
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]