By Kevin Francis, courtesy of The Daily Star
THE fighter they call the 'Russian Rocky' aims to lock horns with his old sparring partner Manny Pacquiao in April. Ruslan Provodnikov has had a storming rise through the rankings and claimed the WBO light welterweight title in October.
He beat Mike Alvarado in Colorado and is now hoping to challenge eight division world champion Pacquiao.
He is an exceptionally powerful puncher and Alvarado said after their fight: "I have got concussion. This guy is a real power puncher.
"He'll beat any welterweight out there. One of the punches really did concuss me and left me really dizzy."
WBO welterweight champ Timothy Bradley, who gained a close points decision over Provodnikov in March, also testified to the Russian's strength.
Bradley, who had symptoms of neurological distress after the fight, said: "There's no doubt about it - he's more powerful than Pacquiao."
Provodnikov, who made his professional debut in 2006, has won 23 of his 25 fights with 16 of those coming by knockout.
It was after sparring with Pacquiao, who has won 10 world titles, that Provodnikov realized he could become a world champion.
He said: "As a kid, I thought about winning a world title, but it was always something of an unreal feeling.
"It was a dream that I always had and now it has happened.
"It shows that if you dedicate yourself, you can achieve your goals.
"It never seemed like it was possible, but after sparring with Manny, it became clear that I really could fight at the highest level."
Provodnikov, 29, comes from the bleak town of Beryozova in Siberia, where he had a tough upbringing and vowed to make it in the world of boxing.
He has the rugged power to surprise Pacquiao (55-5-2), who defeated WBO lightweight champion Brandon Rios in November.
Provodnikov said: "The chances are good that I will meet him in Las Vegas on April 12, even though there was a time when I didn't want this fight.
"We both train under Freddie Roach and if fate gives me the chance to face Manny, I will take it. To refuse to fight a great boxer is stupid."Tags: Manny Pacquiao , Ruslan Provodnikov , Pacquiao-Provodnikov , Pacquiao vs Provodnikov