By Francisco Salazar
What type of fighter is Ruslan Provodnikov?
One who seeks and destroys his opponents with each devastating hook or cross. At least that was what it looked like when he became familiar to fight fans who tuned in to watch him on those “Friday Night Fights” telecasts on ESPN2.
Win or lose, Provodnikov gave everything he had in bouts against fighters such as Javier Jauregui, Ivan Pococa, and Mauricio Herrera.
Most in boxing were left in awe as Provodnikov not only gave a very good account of himself against Timothy Bradley on March 16th, but that he deserved to have his hand raised.
While that could still be debated amongst media and fight fans, another intriguing question is will he have equal or better success against Mike Alvarado on Saturday night?
Media and fans will also debate this, but one thing is for sure: Never count out Provodnikov, who has an underrated skill set that could surprise Alvarado and the boxing public.
The deck will be stacked against Provodnikov as he will fight in Alvarado’s hometown of Denver, CO on Saturday night. The bout will headline a Top Rank card and be broadcast on HBO’s “World Championship Boxing.”
When Provdnikov made his American debut by easily dispatching former world champion Javier Jauregui in February of 2010, fight fans were curious of the Russian-born fighter. He could punch all right, but was easy to hit.
Then Provodnikov’s promoter, Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions, put him in the ring often, considering the people behind ESPN were happy with his fan-friendly style.
Despite the loss to Mauricio Herrera, fight fans and the media wanted to see more of Provodnikov. Knockout victories over Ivan Popoca, David Torres, and Jose Reynoso on the network increased his value, but also moved him to a legit contender status.
His reputation of his hard work ethic was evident as Manny Pacquiao hired him to be a sparring partner.
Then came his opportunity: a welterweight showdown with Tim Bradley. Although Provodnikov lost a decision, his value never diminished as a fighter.
So now he get another opportunity, only this time against Alvarado.
There are those who think Alvarado may not withstand Provodnikov’s pressure. Others think Alvarado will be at his best to box the Russian fighter.
However it plays out, Provodnikov (22-2, 15 KOs) believes he has the tools to beat Alvarado, regardless if it turns into a boxing match.
“I’m sure Mike is 100% ready for this fight and is approaching this fight very seriously,” said Provodnikov on a recent conference call. “He said he is going to try and box me and I am ready for anything. I can also box, I am not only a brawler and we can compete in any style that he chooses. I think if Mike chooses to box, it will be better for me because I think that Mike is a better brawler than he is a boxer.”
That may be a big obstacle as Alvarado has proved he could box, as evident in his last fight on March 30th when he made the necessary adjustments to beat Brandon Rios.
Stranger things have happened in the sport of boxing. Just one week ago, boxing experts who thought Juan Manuel Marquez would overwhelm Timothy Bradley where proven wrong when Bradley executed his game-plan of boxing and not trading with the heavy-handed Mexican.
Is Provodnikov more than just an aggressive, come-forward brawler who hits hard? Do boxers he fights against pay dearly for trading punches with him, if and when they get hurt?
We have seen that before against modest, but not great opposition.
Then again, Mauricio Herrera, whom Provodnikov suffered his first loss to, provided some sort of blueprint for fighters to follow when he beat the Russian over two years ago.
Provodnikov may have made some necessary adjustments now that he is working with Freddie Roach, although the popular trainer will not be in his corner as he is still in the Philippines with Manny Pacquiao. Provodnikov will have Marvin Somodio in his corner tonight.
For the fight fans who want to see a brawl, Provodnikov and Alvarado may abandon their game-plans and brawl and see who has the better chin. Alvarado has been hurt or knocked down in recent fights. Does that give Provodnikov a slight edge, considering he has yet to seriously hurt in any fight as a pro?
We will see what kind of fighter Provodnikov is. This we know: He will give it his all and he will not give up. It almost worked for him in the Bradley fight.
Then again, no one should also sell his boxing ability short as well. He will make necessary adjustments if necessary, but the 29 year old will be relentless, yet smart fighter in the ring tonight.
“I think we are going to have to fight no matter what. Whether it will be one punch, but I think it will turn into a fight no matter what. I don’t think he’ll be able to box with me as well as he thinks. This will turn into a fight. If I can make Timothy Bradley fight me, I don’t think there is anyone that won’t end up fighting me.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2002 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Knockout Nation, and Ring Magazine. He could be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at FSalazarBoxing