By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – The honesty with which Ruslan Provodnikov speaks is about as admirable as his fearless, ferocious style inside the ring.
As much as his unforgettable battle with Timothy Bradley and winning the WBO junior welterweight title from Mike Alvarado changed his life, Provodnikov views himself as the same unkown underdog he was before he fought Bradley nearly 15 months ago in Carson, Calif. And now that the rugged Russian brawler has reached boxing’s biggest stage, Provodnikov believes it is his obligation to continue inspiring people from his native Siberia and beyond.
The 30-year-old Provodnikov (23-2, 16 KOs) will try to continue doing that Saturday night, when he’ll headline HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” doubleheader from Barclays Center in a 12-round fight against unbeaten Chris Algieri (19-0, 8 KOs), of nearby Huntington, N.Y.
“It’s an honor to have people know about you and care,” said Provodnikov, who’ll make the first defense Saturday of a championship he won by annihilating Alvarado (34-3, 23 KOs) on Oct. 13 in Broomfield, Colo. “A kid that used to smoke, that used to drink, that used to do a lot of stupid stuff is now somebody that’s respected, somebody people want to be like and they look up to. To me, that’s unbelievable. That’s an achievement for me. That’s what’s important to me because I want to show this example to people and prove that they can do anything. I’m just a kid from a small, small village [where] people usually don’t go anywhere. But I’ve achieved what I’ve achieved. Why can’t other people?”
Provodnikov still lives in Beryozovo, Russia – a tiny community of about 7,000 people. A fitness complex that’ll be named after Provodnikov is under construction there and is expected to open by mid-2015. Provodnikov intends to work at the facility as a trainer, both with children and adults.
“To me, that’s my greatest achievement,” Provodnikov said, “that I’m able to give back to my community and to my people.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.