Refreshed from his March 16, 2013 “Fight of the Year” entry versus WBO welterweight titleholder Tim Bradley at the Home Depot Center in Carson CA, welterweight contender Ruslan Provodnikov, 22-2 (15), landed in Los Angeles Monday evening to announce his next bout. This time, Provodnikov will return to the 140-pound division to vie for WBO light welterweight titleholder Mike Alvarado’s belt on October 19, 2013 at the First Bank Center in Alvarado’s hometown of Denver, Colorado.
That savage fight left an indelible impression on fight fans everywhere while raising the Beryozovo, Russia fighter’s profile.
“I have the same lifestyle,” Provodnikov told Maxboxing.com Monday night. “My fan base has grown and people that recognize me have grown a lot after this fight. It’s affected my popularity not only in Russia but all over.”
Provodnikov earned his way into boxing fans’ hearts the toughest way possible, pushing Bradley to the edge of defeat but losing a tough decision on the cards. For the natural-born fighter, the money and higher profile is not as valuable as the lesson Ruslan learned that night as both fighters battled over every inch of the canvas.
“The thing I remember most was the rounds where we just went at it, going toe to toe. That’s what I loved the most. That’s what I did it for, why I continue,” recalled Provodnikov. “My favorite moment of the fight, of course, is the moment where I realized I learned a lot. Because I know that [the margin of victory] is a small motion. I know that if I took a step back, I would be world champion. Instead, I was just going at it in a pure, survival-type of mode we were both in.”
In a fight so chaotic, with momentum shifting back and forth, round to round, Provodnikov points to those early moments when he first hurt Bradley as a mistake he will never make again.
“100% this was the moment that taught me a lot because I wanted to win really bad and that didn’t help me get what I wanted. But getting that experience taught me to make sure I always stay cool and [to] finish the job calmly,” he said.
Provodnikov wasn’t out long after the fight and has been using newly-acquired techniques from strength coach Gavin MacMillan, founder of Sport Science Lab, who has worked with Georges St. Pierre among other top athletes. Provodnikov’s co-manager, Vadim Kornilov, told this writer that MacMillan, as well as lead trainer Freddie Roach, will be returning.
“The training camp is going to be the same team as the previous fight,” said Kornilov.
“I felt great in the [Bradley] fight. I feel like I will be on a different level in this fight. There is definitely a great effect training with Gavin,” said Provodnikov of working with MacMillan again.
In Alvarado, the 5’6” Provodnikov faces a taller (5’9”) and longer (69.5 inch reach as opposed to Provodnikov’s 66”) opponent with a solid knockout ratio of 66% at 34-1 (23). But Alvarado is older (33 to 29) and has fought more rounds (182 to 126). While Provodnikov is coming off a tough fight versus Bradley, Alvarado is just one fight removed from a seventh round stoppage loss to Brandon Rios in their hardcore, 12-round revenge match. Both Alvarado and Provodnikov are aggressive and both bring right-hand bombs they won’t be shy about setting off. This is, in short, a great fight either man can win.
“I normally don’t like to talk about a fight until it actually happens but I would say confidently this fight is 50-50,” assessed Provodnikov. “I think Mike Alvarado and I can both seem like we can both win this fight but the stronger one will win at the end. The better one will win.”
As obvious as it sounds, this fight will come down to who lands his big shot more often and more effectively. To Provodnikov, the question of chin won’t matter as much as timing.
“It’s important to realize who takes the punch and we will see that in the fight,” he said, “but I think it’s going to be very important who can land the stronger punch first, as well. More than that, the fight will show overall the answer to your question.”
Provodnikov has already begun preparing physically but he tends to leave the game plan to Freddie Roach, a master of breaking down tape. Training commences tomorrow at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, CA.
“I don’t watch much film of fights. I don’t usually watch other fights a lot,” said Provodnikov, “but I saw his first fight with Brandon Rios. That was recently. And I saw his fight versus [Mauricio] Herrera. I was curious to see how he did with Herrera because I had fought him too. I trust Freddie with [breaking down tape]. I think he will know Alvarado very well for training camp and I will just follow Freddie’s directions and prepare my best for this fight.”
With the fight signed and a press conference scheduled to officially announce the HBO-televised bout, Provodnikov wanted to make sure an important issue is not lost in the impending media blitz. For this fight, as he and Tim Bradley mutually participated in for their fight, Provodnikov wants anti-doping testing to be conducted by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA). The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)-accredited testing organization offers arguably the strictest anti-doping testing protocol in the sport at a reported cost of $16,000 for two fighters.
“Before the Bradley fight, I told the press that I had nothing to not disclose. I am completely clean and I wanted to do anti-doping tests in the Bradley fight,” said Provodnikov. “Same thing with this training camp. I would like to do VADA testing. I have no problem with it at all.”
Backed by his promoter, Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions and Kornilov on this issue, he made it clear that he is not accusing Alvarado of anything untoward. Rather, he seemed to feel that volunteering to be tested and inviting his opponent to join him is a proactive way to generally raise the standards in this combat sport.
“Doing testing myself and pushing for my competitors to do testing, as well, is the best way to clean up [combat sports]. If your opponent is clean, he is not going to balk at doing testing. If they don’t want to do testing, there is usually something for people to find out. I don’t see a problem doing testing if I know I am clean. The more fighters go and do this, I think the more fans will expect this and the more the sport will progress.”
With Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated reporting that the Nevada State Athletic Commission testing (ordered by Top Rank founder Bob Arum) to be conducted in the Tim Bradley-Juan Manuel Marquez fight is set to begin this week at a reported cost of $35,000, it will be interesting to see how Provodnikov’s stand goes over and if Arum will continue to special order anti-doping tests in every state he promotes in.
The important thing to be gleaned from Provodnikov’s request for stricter anti-doping tests is that, right now, this is the best option available to fighters. Is it ideal? Maybe not but perhaps if - as Provodnikov hopes - more fighters take part, the action can create of wave of change within state commissions and surrounding entities.
Regardless of that looming issue, Mike Alvarado vs. Ruslan Provodnikov is assuredly going to be another “Fight of the Year” candidate. Who comes out on top is anyone’s guess and that is why we watch.