By Keith Idec
Ruslan Provodnikov’s promoter knows what skeptics are saying about his fighter.
He warned them during a recent press conference in Los Angeles to avoid underestimating an extremely hungry challenger Art Pelullo promised will truly test Timothy Bradley on March 16. The 29-year-old Provodnikov is 22-1, including 15 knockouts, but the resilient Russian contender will be a big underdog against the unbeaten Bradley in their HBO main event, a 12-round fight for Bradley’s WBO welterweight title in Carson, Calif.
“He trains in a city called Ekaterinburg,” Pellulo said. “It’s a 24-hour ride by train from his home. It’s in the most northern part of Siberia. So he knows what this means. He understands that he’s [on] the big stage. He understands that it’s a great opportunity and they don’t come often.
“And I told him, ‘At every stage of every fighter’s career, you must win a fight you’re not supposed to win.’ He’ll be a major underdog with the critics, but not with the boxing people. With the oddsmakers. But at the end of the day it’s a great fight.”
The low-profile Provodnikov has strictly been an ESPN-level fighter and wasn’t mentioned until recently as a potential opponent for Bradley (29-0, 12 KOs, 1 NC), of Palm Springs, Calif. Despite his record, Provodnikov has been blasted as a disappointing alternative among fight fans to Lamont Peterson and Yuriorkis Gamboa, two of the most prominent opponents Bradley has considered fighting since his heavily disputed, split-decision defeat of Manny Pacquiao on June 9 in Las Vegas.
He did, after all, lose a 10-round unanimous decision to Mauricio Herrera (18-3, 7 KOs) two years ago in Las Vegas. The aggressive Provodnikov does, however, usually provide entertainment in the ring.
“He’s very, very television-friendly,” Pellulo said. “You’re going to love him. I know most of the writers know him. He doesn’t know how to do anything but come at you. Tim Bradley is a great fighter, a great champion. And it was great of him and [manager] Cameron [Dunkin] to give us the opportunity.”
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.