By Cliff Rold
Two fights ago, 27-year old Jr. Welterweight thriller Ruslan Provodnikov (19-1, 13 KO) of Ekaterinburg, Russia, saw his dreams of a title shot deferred in suffering his first defeat. Friday night at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, California, Provodnikov visited the same disappointment on 29-year old Mexican Ivan Popoca (15-1-1, 10 KO) of Chicago, Illinois, dropping and ultimately stopping Popoca in the eight round.
Provodnikov came in just over the division limit of 140 lbs. at 140 ¾, Popoca just under at 138 ½. The referee was Pat Russell.
Provodnikov mixed up his attack early, pressing and then backing off and boxing. The approach gave him opportunities to time loaded, booming left hooks on Popoca while subtly ripping less eye catching body shots home in between. Clearly outmatched in terms of physical strength, Popoca was smart about using his jab beginning in the second round but the sound of the shots Provodnikov was landing kept Popoca from doing more than just competing.
Popoca started strong in the fifth round, matching Provodnikov’s harder shots with some crisp combinations. As the seconds peeled off the clock, Popoca found himself again unable to stop the powerful lefts and rights of Provodnikov. A left hook in the final minute hurt Popoca badly but the Mexican showed great courage. Using everything he had to keep his feet, back trapped against the ropes, Popoca even managed to fire back some hard shots.
Provodnikov took a bit of a breather in the sixth and matters were measured through the first two minutes of the seventh. Provodnikov, whacking with the right hand, began chipping away again at the remaining resolve of Popoca, building toward the finish to come.
A picturesque right hand caught Popoca falling into it and sent Popoca to the floor with just more than a minute to go in round eight. Popoca gamely rose and, as he had in the fifth, went to the ropes in search of survival. It was, instead, the end as Provodnikov came forward with power shots and forced Russell to save Popoca at 2:16 of the eighth.
Two losses early in a career in today’s boxing game can be devastating in the chase for big dollars. Provodnikov was emotional in discussing the critical victory, stating through a translator, “When I was coming into this fight, it felt like it was the last fight for me because I knew, either I win or I put my gloves up on a nail.”
Provodnikov can keep those gloves where they belong for now and fans can look forward to the next time they’re laced up.
The fans were treated to some solid rounds of action before the rugged main event.
A pair Light Heavyweights didn’t disappoint even if they got stuck with a sister kiss, drawing over four rounds. 25-year old Mike Gavronski (2-0-1, 2 KO), 172 ½, of Bellvue, Washington, managed to stay unbeaten but also faced turbulence for the first time versus 27-year old Tyrell Hendrix (5-1-2, 2 KO), 173 ½, of Los Angeles, California.
Gavronski looked like he might make short work of Hendrix, staggering him with a long right second into the bout. Four more amongst an assault put Hendrix on the seat of his trunks near the ropes. Referee Tom Taylor issued the mandatory eight as Hendrix rose at four, and Hendrix wisely tied up, both men toppling to floor and Gavronski rising with a cut induced by head clash near the right eye. Moments later, a big right hand from Hendrix had Gavronski on his rear near the ropes, the tide turned and the opening round not half over. Both men lobbed big haymakers in spots through to the bell.
They’d keep their feet the rest of the way in a rough three rounds featuring a mix of big shots, grappling, and some ugly rabbit punching from Hendrix. Hendrix dominated the second, Gavronski hurt more than once but responding with loaded bombs. Cut near both eyes, Hendrix took some huge shots from a Gavronski who attempted in spots, awkwardly, to counter rather than rush right in. A visit from the doctor was needed to take a look at the left eye of Hendrix and Hendrix closed with a strong flurry. It was pier six brawling for most of the final round, Hendrix landing the best stuff in the final minute.
Hendrix probably deserved the nod with one judge giving him a shutout at 40-36. It was overruled with matching scores of 38-38 and there wasn’t too much complaint to be had as both young battlers put on a good show.
The televised opener was a quick piece of entertainment, a pleasant surprise in a contest caught in a bind for half of the bill earlier this week. It worked out fine for 24-year old Lightweight Marvin Quintero (22-3, 18 KO), 136 ½, of Tijuana, Mexico, as he picked up a third round stoppage over 26-year old Juan Santiago (13-7-1, 8 KO), 137, of Denver, Colorado. Santiago stepped in late when former Lightweight challenger Ji Hoon Kim was diagnosed with a detached retina.
The fight built steadily through the first two rounds, Quintero upping the offense in the second and beginning to batter the valiant substitute Santiago. It took what seemed only split seconds for the end to come in round three. Shooting a quick southpaw right jab and a touching left, Quintero exploded with a right hook and Santiago was in trouble. Quintero landed two more rights to force Santiago towards the ropes. In a flurry of blows, two more rights cleanly jerked about the head of Santiago and referee Tom Taylor called a halt to the action at :12 of round three.
The card was televised on ESPN2 as part of its “Friday Night Fights” series, promoted by Banner Promotions.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]