COMMENTARY | When one steps into the ring with Ruslan Provodnikov (23-2, 16 KO) one best be prepared to fight. Known as the 'Siberian Rocky' his bouts don't usually involve much defense or dancing, unless you consider stalking your opponent a form of dance. Provodnikov walked down his opponent over the weekend, Mike Alvarado (34-2, 23 KO), using a take-one-to-give-one approach, and finally broke Alvarado's spirit to earn a 10th round TKO victory capturing the WBO Junior Welterweight belt.
Provodnikov came into his opponent's hometown, beat him up, took his belt and did all of it with respect and humility. Make no mistake, Provodnikov is a brute in the ring but is also classy outside of it with the kind of rough edges that make him very likeable.
Alvarado seemed to be confounded by the Russian's pressure especially after landing some big shots of his own that didn't do anything but make Provodnikov smile and continue to press forward. Alvarado switched styles in every round and looked his absolute best in round two when he "boxed" with effective jabs and movement around the ring.
If he would have fought that way the entire fight using the jab at distance and uppercuts in close quarters he might have won, but Provodnikov was relentless.
Provodinikov lured Alvarado into some concussion-inducing exchanges in the middle rounds that both could have taken falls from. Provodnikov started working the body of Alvarado with the right hand and used a marksman-like left hook that knotted up the Colorado native's right eye something nasty.
When Provodnikov used combination punching to do his work he was pretty much unstoppable but he didn't commit to that strategy until after the sixth round. In round eight the Russian bombarded Alvarado with power-packed combos that made him genuflect like Tim Tebow twice in the round. From there on out, despite Alvarado's heart, the fight was truly over.
After another flurry in the 10th round from the Russian that saw Alvarado rocked around the ring only to be held up by the ropes, it became clear it just wasn't Alvarado's night. The 'Siberian Rocky' Provodnikov invoked his inner Ivan Drago and broke Alvarado's spirit. Alvarado wanted no more--not on this night at least and referee Tony Weeks made the call to stop the fight before the 11th round could begin.
A stoppage nobody, including Alvarado, disagreed with.
The door is now completely ajar for Provodnikov to secure some big money fights. Names like Lucas Matthysse and Danny Garcia are being thrown out there as potential opponents. A fight against Matthysse would be utterly crowd pleasing but is all risk for Provodnikov. Taking on Garcia or maybe even Adrien Broner probably makes the most sense if he is looking for greater glory. He would undoubtedly and deservedly be the underdog in either fight if he could get one of them to bite.
The most likely scenario is Provodnikov getting the winner of Brando Rios and Manny Pacquiao which would be the easiest fight to make from a promotional standpoint.
A rematch against Timothy Bradley would also be very intriguing but Bradley isn't likely to have any design of going through that hell again. A rematch against Alvarado is also a possibility but doesn't do much for Provodnikov short term.
No matter who is next for Provodnikov there is little doubt that he has become one of the more exciting fighters in the sport. He is likeable because he hits like a sledgehammer while always coming forward but he's vulnerable and that makes his fights aesthetically pleasing. With him there will always be blood from someone and maybe even a little spirit breaking.
Warren Shaw is a NBA contributor to Dime Magazine and co-host of the weekly basketball podcast "The Baseline". He has covered various sporting events live while also conducting one on one player interviews. His passion for basketball is seconded by boxing and his work can be found on shawsports.net.
Follow him on Twitter @ShawSportsNBA
- Sports & Recreation
- Mike Alvarado
- Ruslan Provodnikov