by Cliff Rold
It was a thrilling start to the 2011 boxing year as 30-year old Jr. Welterweight Mauricio Herrera (16-1, 7 KO) of Lake Elsinore, California endured heavy hands and a swollen left eye to score a career best unanimous decision victory over formerly undefeated 26-year old Russian Ruslan Provodnikov (17-1, 11 KO) at the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada on Friday night.
Both men weighed in spot on the Jr. Welterweight limit of 140 lbs.
Provodnikov opened with a stiff left jab and Herrera answered right away with one of his own to start round one. The steadily pace opening frame favored Provodnikov but only slightly. Herrera used good footwork and quicker hands to box for stretches but the Russian dug in with shots to the body and jarring single shots to the head.
Provodnikov’s face already showed redness from the early beat of Herrera’s jab and it would eat more of them in the second. Herrera’s face was a compliment with marks beneath the left eye but he looked the winner by round’s end, his jab and counters a hair ahead of the aggression of Provodnikov.
The strength and pressure of Provodnikov swung the pendulum again in the third, and dramatically. As he headed to the corner at the bell, the swelling beneath the eye of Herrera was an unhealthy purple. His vision seemed fine early in the fourth as he rattled combinations to the head and body but Provodnikov was thudding hooks off his man by the final minute.
Herrera opened the fifth with another burst of aggression. An undeterred Provodnikov took the blows and continued to chip away with blows visibly harder and of great affect. By the start of the sixth, crimson flowing from the nose of Herrera to go along with his messy eye, Herrera was forced into the corner for a look from the ringside physician. Waved on to continue, Herrera had his best round since the second, jabbing and making Provodnikov miss in close.
A flurry of straight punches at mid-ring, in the middle of round seven, were a highlight of another grueling but smartly boxed frame for Herrera. Sans a consistent jab, Provodnikov struggled to land clean though he was able to mix in some nasty rights over the left jab of Herrera.
Each man made a case for themselves in the eighth, their bruised faces expressing earned fatigue and little give. Herrera’s left eye no better, Provodnikov found his jab in spots in the ninth and his right hand was more effective as a result. Pressure and right hands extended Provodnikov’s advantage in the tenth though Herrera was hardly out of the fight.
A right eye injured in training showed its own ugly swelling for Provodnikov as the final two rounds began and Herrera found the spot with wide lefts in the eleventh. They were not the only blows he’d land, Herrera answering right hands with his own and opening up with educated combinations down the stretch of the round to pick up what seemed a clear round in a close fight.
Both men worthy of the loud applause that greeted them from the crowd at the bell for the final round, Provodnikov struck first with a right but it was Herrera punching with him, and punching when Provodnikov was trying to rest on the inside, in the first minute. Blood streaking between the eyes of Herrera, Provodnikov clubbed his man with rights in the final minute and looked to shade the closing three minutes with heavier hands.
The judges disagreed, Herrera a mild upset winner at 115-113 and 116-112 twice. The closeness of many rounds made it hard to argue vehemently one way or another as both warriors proved worthy of an audience in the future.
The star of the undercard has yet to prove worthy of the audience’s attention and one wonders if he’s progressed much since his pro debut.
While never genuinely threatened, 22-year old Jr. Middleweight Demetrius Andrade (12-0, 8 KO) 153 ½, of Providence, Rhode Island, went distance for the third time in his last five contests and picked up eight solid if unimpressive rounds against a game 29-year old Alberto Herrera (7-2-1, 5 KO), 152, of Riverside, California.
Andrade, fighting mostly from a southpaw stance, used his right jab and rapier left to control the distance of the contest early, stunning Herrera in the first and controlling him in the second. Herrera did his best work of the bout in round three, standing his ground and connecting inside. Andrade absorbed the assault and calmly resumed control.
Any drama remaining in the five rounds that followed came from wondering if Andrade could score the stoppage. Andrade’s reliance on amateur flurries and the toughness of Herrera wouldn’t allow it and the question exists of whether Andrade, a 2007 World Amateur Champion and 2008 U.S. Olympian, has truly made the transition to a professional style. His hand speed and snap are evident, but so is a chin too often framed in space waiting for a counter and punches not quite turned over.
It was of no consequence against Herrera as scores of 80-72 (twice) and 79-73 attested. Whether or not it becomes a matter of great consequence down the road remains to be seen.
The card was televised in the U.S. as the season premiere of ESPN2 Friday Night Fights.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]