Mike Alvarado won't get lured into brawl with Ruslan Provodnikov

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

Only seconds earlier, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez had completed the third fight in their epic rivalry – yet another close, sensational and heated clash.

As reporters streamed into the media center following the controversial verdict, which favored Pacquiao by the narrowest of margins, promoter Bob Arum opined.

"How about that fight?" Arum exclaimed, an ear-to-ear grin creasing his face. "That was like something out of a [expletive] Rocky movie."

It wasn't, however, the Pacquiao-Marquez bout Arum was talking about. Nor was it the co-main event between Timothy Bradley and Joel Casamayor.

Arum was fired up by the performance of Mike Alvarado, who was badly down on the cards to Breidis Prescott before a late-fight rally resulted in a final-round stoppage victory.

It was Alvarado's introduction to big-time boxing, and it made him one of the more popular fighters in the talented super lightweight class.

Alvarado was a hard-hitting brawler who had the ability to repeatedly bring fans out of their seats.

Now, two years later, Alvarado is headlining an HBO-televised card in his hometown of Denver against slugger Ruslan Provodnikov in a battle for the WBO super lightweight title.

Provodnikov is coming off of a loss at welterweight to Bradley in March that remains the front-runner for 2013 Fight of the Year.

It's such a big fight in Denver that when readers of the Denver Post opened the paper on Sunday, they were greeted by the smiling visage of Alvarado, not Broncos' quarterback Peyton Manning, on the middle of the sports page.

But Alvarado vows not to do the one thing that everyone who will be rooting for him in the bout at the 1st Bank Center in suburban Broomfield, Colo., will be hoping to see him do: Brawl.

After a strategic victory over Brandon Rios in March, Alvarado found religion, so to speak. He fell in love with his boxing ability.

Now, Alvarado isn't the type to run and avoid a fight, but he's insistent he isn't going to stand flat-footed in front of the heavy-handed Provodnikov and slug away in a battle of wills.

"I learned so much from that Rios fight, the rematch," Alvarado told Yahoo Sports. "Everybody was so excited about our first fight and all they could talk about was what a great fight it was. And it was, and I'm thankful I was in that kind of a war. But I lost that fight and when me and my team looked at the tape, we saw a lot of things we could do better. If I had boxed, it would be a different fight.

"So I went out the last time and you saw, I didn't get stupid and didn't just go brawl with him. I still fought him, but I was smart and I used my boxing. And I learned from that."

The simple message: Don't make it hard when it could be easy. Provodnikov isn't an overly skilled boxer and he doesn't possess a diverse set of talents. He's as tough as they come, though, and is one of the hardest punchers, on a pound-for-pound basis, in the sport.

Bradley chose to try to put a show on against Provodnikov and paid the price for it, suffering a severe concussion and nearly losing the bout.

In retrospect, Bradley knew he made a mistake and he adjusted his approach last week in a well thought-out plan against Juan Manuel Marquez.

The reason the Provodnikov fight was hard, Bradley said, fell entirely on his shoulders.

"It would have been an easy fight had I chosen to box him," Bradley said.

That's the kind of attitude that Alvarado is taking. Alvarado is a big super lightweight with good power and relatively fast hands.

Rios tried very hard in the second fight to lure him into a slugfest, but Alvarado resisted the urge. The second bout was still very exciting, and remains one of the year's best, but Alvarado didn't take nearly as many risks.

He pumped his jab repeatedly at Rios, used angles like he hadn't in the first bout and generally boxed his way to an impressive and unquestioned win.

That prompted the question, "Why change?" when the thoughts turned to fighting Provodnikov.

"I'm still going to be in a good fight, because that's just who I am," Alvarado said. "But I don't want to have anyone saying my fight was like a Rocky movie anymore. I have the ability to be smart and box and give myself the best chance to win.

"Now that I'm at this level and I know what it takes, it's just being focused and disciplined about doing what I need to do to win."

There are a lot of huge fights ahead in which he could potentially bank millions of dollars. He said, "I think I'm destined for a trilogy," with Rios, but also knows he'll be able to make big money against the likes of Pacquiao, Bradley, Marquez and, perhaps down the road, even Floyd Mayweather Jr.

There is plenty of good ahead of him, but Alvarado, whose discipline often has cost him in the past, needs to remember what brought him to the precipice of greatness.

"Just hearing people bring up my name in the same sentence with some of the legends of boxing, it's given me great confidence and it's made me realize more than ever what is important," he said. "I'm just going to push that much harder. I'm just going to keep doing my part, working hard and winning fights, and I'll let my promoter figure out the rest."

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