COMMENTARY | While the world remains obsessed with the bright lights, big money shenanigans of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, there is a cold, calculated fighting machine just beyond the shadows, willing and able to eliminate the sport's two cash cows and any of the other stars in his weight range.
Ruslan Provodnikov, the 29-year-old fighting machine from Russia, spent 2013 turning himself from ESPN Friday Night Fights fodder to legitimate main stage material with a grinding win over Mike Alvarado in October and a brutal near-victory over WBO welterweight champ Timothy Bradley in March.
Now with a record of 23-2 (16 KOs), Provodnikov is on the verge of making some major things happen and it seems only a matter of time before the 140-147 lb. wild card battler bulls his way to stardom by forcing one of the bigger names out of the way. When the tough-as-nails Alvarado was forced to quit on his stool against the onslaught of the Russian, it not only earned Provodnikov the WBO junior welterweight title, but it opened the door to some major possibilities. Fans and media can sense this warrior-on-the-verge-of-greatness vibe and have started paying attention.
Although contractually obligated to fight on at least one more Top Rank card, Provodnikov is not signed to either Top Rank or Golden Boy and, therefore, isn't affected by the cold war taking place between both promotional companies. Free to move around and explore his opportunities, the possibilities are virtually endless in the talent-rich 140-147 lb. weight range.
Able to make either weight, Provodnikov, however, seems more focused on the welterweight glamor division where the big names and big paydays reside.
A high-stakes showdown with Manny Pacquiao would face many possible obstacles, including the fact that both are trained by Freddie Roach, but the bout has been tossed about as a possibility for Pacquiao's scheduled April 12 return date.
"In this fight, mental factors would play a big role. I would have my trainer Freddie Roach in the other corner," Provodnikov recently told RingTV. "I've said before I never wanted to take a fight without him, and now he's on the other side of the ring. Manny and I would have a great fight. I think that's why everybody wants to see it. It's a dangerous fight for both of us."
Another possibility is a bout with Juan Manuel Marquez, the 40-year-old Mexican legend and first ballot Hall of Famer. However, Marquez has shown no public interest in meeting the "Siberian Rocky" and money issues could nix the idea of a bout before talks can ever begin.
Back a few weeks ago, Provodnikov and Brandon Rios engaged in a polite social media back-and-forth on Twitter and verbally agreed to a bout, but with rumors of a Pacquiao fight floating around, the much smaller Rios-Provodnikov contest has to be regarded, at the moment, as a standby bout.
A rematch with Timothy Bradley could also be a realistic option for Provodnikov, but much depends on who gets the call to face Pacquiao next and, as of this writing, the strongest rumor is that Bradley may be squaring off against the Filipino icon in an April rematch of Bradley's poorly-received 2012 split decision victory over Pacquiao.
Then, of course, there's always the other side of the promotional feud where Provodnikov could cozy up to Golden Boy and possibly face anyone from WBC/WBA junior welterweight champ Danny Garcia to Marcos Maidana to, ultimately, the biggest money generator in the sport and pound-for-pound best, Floyd Mayweather.
Best of all for Provodnikov is that, on any given night, he just may be good enough and strong enough to beat any of the names on his wish list. With nothing to lose, everything to gain, and the growing confidence of a world class fighter reaching his prime at just the right time, Ruslan Provodnikov is every opponent's nightmare and a godsend for fans who love hardcore, blue collar fighting.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and is the author of Notes from the Boxing Underground. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
- Sports & Recreation
- Manny Pacquiao
- Ruslan Provodnikov
- Floyd Mayweather
- Timothy Bradley