On Monday, Banner Promotions sent out a press release announcing that former WBO light welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov (24-4, 17 KOs) will return to action on November 7, in Monte Carlo, against little-known, but undefeated, Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez (13-0, 10 KOs). It’s always good news to hear that the Siberian Rocky is getting ready for another fight. Unfortunately, with this fight taking place in Monte Carlo, it probably won’t be broadcast on U.S. television.
Ruslan Provodnikov is one of the most exciting fighters in the world today. Unfortunately for him, he’s come up just short in two of his most thrilling battles. In March 2013, he nearly knocked out Timothy Bradley on three occasions, but lost a close unanimous decision. That fight was the best fight of recent years. Last April, Provodnikov lost another terrific fight by majority decision to Lucas Matthysse. There’s a good chance that one will pick up 2015 Fight of the Year honors.
Provodnikov recently left long-time trainer Freddie Roach, in order to begin working with Joel Diaz, the former trainer to Bradley. Ruslan Provodnikov is as rugged and durable as a fighter can be, and never comes to the ring in less than outstanding physical condition. But it’s no secret that he has struggled with boxers who can move well. It’s why he lost to Bradley, despite the outstanding work he put in during that fight. It’s why he was edged by split decision against Chris Algieri in 2014, despite knocking Algieri down twice.
It was also the difference in his all-action war with Matthysse. Ruslan Provodnikov put in outstanding work to Matthysse’s body, but the Argentine out boxed him. I watched that fight from ringside, and did score it as a draw, but if I had to pick a winner, it was clearly Matthysse. There were two rounds I gave Provodnikov that I could also have seen a justification for giving to Matthysse. There were no rounds I gave to Matthysse that I would have given to Provodnikov. Matthysse used a good jab and created the better angles in that fight, and was generally the better ring general.
In the press release, Ruslan Provodnikov is quoted as saying that he wants a rematch with Matthysse, or else a fight with Brandon Rios. Both those fights would be hotly anticipated and welcome programming for HBO Boxing.
Meanwhile, he will need to get past Rodriguez next month. I know nothing about Rodriguez, and his record sounds promising. At the same time, a closer look on Boxrec shows it’s not as impressive as it sounds. He’s beaten just one fighter with a winning record, the 8-7 Enrique Mecado. The combined record of his 13 opponents is 35-108-11. His last win was over Brian Abraham, last February, a fighter who is currently mired in a 13-fight losing streak.
It’s a big opportunity for Alvarez to fight a big-name attraction like Provodnikov, and he will no doubt do his best to cash in on it. But I can’t even remember the last time I saw a fighter taking this big of a step up in competition. He is going from fighting club-level trial horses to facing a top-10 talent and former world champion.