By Ivan G. Goldman
The split decision for Chris Algieri over Ruslan Provodnikov wasn’t awful enough to merit a full-fledged investigation, but it wasn’t terribly defensible either. Algieri came armed for a pillow fight against a guy swinging a wrench, with predictable results inside the ring.
The scoring for professional boxing, when it’s done correctly, pretty much follows the logic of a street fight. The guy who beats up the other guy wins. In this particular contest it didn’t require acute observational powers to distinguish the beater from the beaten.
Then there’s the math. Hard-hitting Provodnikov, by sending the challenger to the canvas twice in the first round, won himself a 10-7 round. Apparently there was no disagreement on that. That meant he needed to lose eight of the next eleven rounds to justify the two identical scores of 114-112 for Algieri. That didn’t happen, at least not in reality. However, the fight wasn’t staged in reality. It was set in Brooklyn instead, and Algieri is from nearby Huntington, N.Y.
The two judges who saw it for Algieri just happened to be residents of the Tri-State area — Don Trella of Connecticut and Tom Schreck, of New York City. Alas, these locales are nowhere near Provodnikov’s hometown of Beryozovo in Siberian, Russia. Judge Max DeLuca, of Tustin, California, who had it 117-109 for defending WBO light welterweight titlist Provodnikov, turned in a solitary adult score even though yes, California is closer to Brooklyn than it is to Siberia.
It’s true that when the fight stretched into the championship rounds Freddie Roach told Provodnikov that he better knock out his opponent, but that doesn’t mean Roach, who’s a long way from being a novice, thought his guy was losing. What it means is he sensed the fight was close enough to steal. He’d seen these things before. We all have.
This is pro boxing, folks, which means geography can count a lot. But it also means that effective punching is supposed to be the Number One round-by-round judging criterion. Effective aggression, ring generalship, and defense only get scored when effective punching is even, and round by round, it almost never was. These are not brand new concepts. Judges are acquainted with them, including judges from the Tri-State Area.
This is not to denigrate Algieri’s performance. He’s a gutsy fighter who harassed and annoyed the champion with a wide array of shots, and Provodnikov’s defense wasn’t solid enough to prevent them from landing. It takes great courage to compete with meager power and tremendous will to maintain your focus when big bombs are whistling past your ears and sometimes straight into your head and torso. Actually, shots from a guy like Algieri are more effective than one might expect, but Provodnikov’s punches are even more thunderous than they look on TV.
Unfortunately for Provodnikov, he’s not as good a fighter as Max Kellerman makes him out to be. Drunks show better balance. But he did enough to win the contest and keep his title.
There’s an excellent chance the WBO will order a rematch, and there’s no chance it will be fought in Siberia, but wherever it’s held, it wouldn’t be surprising if Provodnikov repeats his clumsy but effective performance, which won’t be good news for Algieri, who improved to 20-0 (8 KOs) while the ex-champ dropped to 23-3 (16 KOs).
` Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag, by New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman, was released in 2013 by Potomac Books, a University of Nebraska Press imprint. It can be purchased here.