By Mitch Abramson
When the Barclays Center was in the process of being built in Brooklyn, Russian boxer Ruslan Provodnikov envisioned one day fighting there. And after fellow countryman and Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov apparently pulled a few strings - that dream will now become a reality.
Apparently, Prokhorov played a role in getting Provodnikov, a junior welterweight titlist to fight at the Barclays Center, where the Nets play their home games after he was originally slated to fight at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, LI on June 14 against the Long Island product Chris Algieri.
According to Provodnikov’s manager, Vadim Kornilov, someone close to Prokhorov, whom he declined to mention, was cognizant that Provodnikov was fighting on Long Island this summer. And believing he should be fighting at the Barclays Center instead, the person got in touch with Kornilov.
“There is a contact with someone with the Prokhorov group and they’re aware of the existence of Ruslan Provodnikov, who’s the most famous Russian boxer right now and due to that fact we were able to achieve certain things,” Kornilov said on Saturday.
“They like Ruslan and they’re willing to do certain things [to get him].”
Kornilov then reached out to Provodnikov’s promoter, Artie Pelullo to get the wheels turning on bringing the fight to Brooklyn. Pelullo initiated talks with Brett Yormark, CEO of the Barclays, to make the deal happen. Pelullo says he has a deal in place and will make it official on Monday, adding that he never signed an agreement with the Nassau Coliseum.
“The people at the Barclays and I worked out a very nice deal,” Pelullo said of why he was so eager to switch venues. “And they were very cooperative. I’m meeting with them on Monday to finalize everything. They wanted to make a deal.”
Kornilov was a little evasive about the role if any Prokhorov played in the discussions.
But he did hint of something meaningful, saying, “I think for Prokhorov and the rest of Russia this is going to be very much appreciated because of what they did is they helped a famous Russian athlete to succeed in the sport of boxing worldwide. So I think it’s a great move for all of us and for Russia.”
Kornilov also suggested the mounting fame of Provodnikov in Russia got the attention of Prokhorov and his associates, helping to make the deal happen.
“His popularity is growing a lot in Russia,” Kornilov said. “A lot of people in Russia are finding out about a new star in boxing named Ruslan Provodnikov and that made a big influence in getting this done.”
A press conference to formally announce the bout will take place on Wednesday at the Barclays Center.
“Even when the Barclays Center was built, in the back of their mind they thought that one day if Ruslan has a big fight it would be a dream to fight at the Barclays Center because it’s owned by a Russian person,” Pelullo said. “And it’s right in the middle of Brooklyn, which is probably the most Russian community in the United States.”
Even though Golden Boy Promotions has an exclusive deal to promote shows at the Barclays Center, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer gave his blessing on the show, Pelullo said.
Provodnikov (23-2, 16 knockouts) was born in a small town in Siberia, Russia and has recently emerged as one of the most exciting fighters in the sport. He nearly upset former WBO welterweight champion Tim Bradley when they met last year, stunning Bradley several times en route to a loss. And he stopped Mike Alvarado in the tenth round in October of last year to win the WBO title after dropping down in weight.
The Barclays Center majority owner Bruce Ratner recently won a $229 million bid by his real estate company, Forest City Ratner, to renovate the Nassau Coliseum. And the Islanders, who currently play at the Coliseum, will move to the Barclays Center after the 2014-15 season. Prokhorov is the majority owner of the Nets and minority owner of the Barclays Center.
Neither Prokhorov nor Yormark immediately responded to an email for comment.
Mitch Abramson covers boxing for the New York Daily News and BoxingScene.com.