By Jake Donovan
Ruslan Provodnikov probably lost more rounds than he won in 2013, yet has emerged as a rising cult hero in the sport. That’s what happens when you go balls to the wall every time you step into the ring.
The bruising Russian produced 22 memorable rounds last year, coming up just short in a two-knockdown performance of Tim Bradley and a rallying late stoppage win over Mike Alvarado. The latter netted Provodnikov (26-2, 16KO) a 140 lb. title, which he defends for the first time Saturday evening at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Awaiting him is unbeaten contender Chris Algieri (19-0, 8KO), who has built up a huge following in his hometown of Huntington, New York. Saturday’s affair marks a series of firsts for the fighting pride of Long Island – his first shot at a major title, and also his debut performance on HBO, which airs the bout as part of a televised tripleheader (Saturday, 10PM ET).
Read on to see how the staff at Boxingscene.com believes tonight’s 140 lb. title fight goes down.
BOXINGSCENE.COM PREDICTIONS: RUSLAN PROVODNIKOV vs. CHRIS ALGIERI
"I think Algieri will outbox Provodnikov early but will start to take over the middle rounds. A game but outgunned Algieri will do better than many expected but will ultimately succumb to the power and relentlessness of the Siberian Rocky."
- Ryan Burton (Provodnikov TKO10)
"Provodnikov is there to be outboxed, but the real trick is trying to outlast him. Algieri's passion for strength and conditioning coupled with his ability to box suggests a potentially stylistic nightmare for Provodnikov, who is forced to dig out of an early hole to surge late and take a close call in a fight that exposes his vulnerabilities."
- Jake Donovan (Provodnikov UD)
"Provodnikov's two signature performances (close loss to Bradley and stoppage win over Alvarado) were over men who threw the game plan out the window and didn't box him intelligently. Algieri will, and despite some shaky moments, will pull the upset in a very narrow decision."
- Bill Emes (Algieri UD)
"Provodnikov is difficult to elude and even more difficult to dissuade. I can't imagine Algieri being able to do too much of either -- or at least not for as long as he'd need to. As a result, by the mid-rounds it'll be time to start talking about the next one."
- Lyle Fitzsimmons (Provodnikov TKO7)
"People banking on the aspect that Algieri can box and possibly frustrate Provodnikov I don't think are seeing how much he has improved in all aspects of his fight game including the one area that is needed to defeat boxers, footwork. The constant pressure we've seen of late isn't just natural ability it's the work the Wild Card staff have invested in Provo. Can't see Algieri standing up to it for long and eventually wilts."
- Ernest Gabion (Provodnikov TKO7)
" Algieri's learned a lot about fighting inside from Robert Garcia, but this is the type of fight where I don't see him being able to make Provodnikov respect his power in exchanges, or display the ring generalship necessary to deter the Siberian's constant pressure.
- Ryan Maquiñana (Provodnikov TKO5)
"There are some people whose opinions I trust saying this is a scary fight for Provodnikov. I'm not sold enough on Algieri to go there. He will compete but Provodnikov should be up for his first defense with big things possible if he can win here."
- Cliff Rold (Provodnikov by TKO)
"Algieri will have confidence at the beginning of the fight, but he has not faced a fighter anywhere near as strong and effective in Provodnikov. Algieri gives him some difficulties early, but Provodnikov will cut off the ring and break him down slowly. This fights ends at or before the ninth round in Provodnikov's favor."
- Francisco Salazar (Provodnikov by TKO)
"While some feel Algieri will pose issues, I really don't see it. Movement and boxing may buy him some time but Provodnikov will eventually catch him and put him away in the mid rounds."
- Luis Sandoval (Provodnikov by TKO)
"To fight with Ruslan Provodnikov and to have a chance for a victory you should either be a physical freak of your own or possess uncanny boxing ability. Chris Algieri is a former kickboxer and a good one, which means he cannot be a horrific boxer. And he is not a puncher. And he has never been tested. He will provide some feats to the Siberian Rocky early one but Ruslan will eventually wore him down and stop Algieri midst into the fight. Kickboxers can win sometimes. This is not that moment."
- Alexey Sukachev (Provodnikov TKO7)
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox