By Sean Crose
Both Ruslan Provodnikov and Chris Algieri looked ready for action before the opening bell at Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center on Saturday. Pre-fight jitters simply weren’t evident in either man’s corner. The fighters appeared deadly serious and ready to battle for the WBO light welterweight title.
Provodnikov went to the body right from the get go. It was clear he meant to break his man down. Algieri had an effective jab and quick hands, but the Siberian was able to drop him just past the halfway point of the round. Algieri was down again a few seconds later.
As if that weren’t bad enough, Algieri’s eye was starting to swell – badly. Yet the young man from Huntington had heart and continued to swing until the end of the first. It certainly looked, however, to be a lopsided affair (as was the earlier Demitrius Andrade bout). Appearances, however, can be deceiving.
Algieri kept swinging in the second, but Provodnikov, true Freddie Roach protege that he is, cut off the ring masterfully and continued taking his man apart on the ropes. Algieri was throwing more punches, but Provodnikov’s punches were harder – a lot harder. Also, Ruslan, vicious though he was, was exerting far less energy. He was dangerous, but Provodnikov was fighting a patient bout.
Still, Algieri was successfully sticking and moving during the third. He also fired some good clean shots. In fact, I thought the third round belonged to him. Yet the energy Algieri lost by having to keep away from his foe, coupled with the brutality of Provodnikov’s punches, didn’t bode well for the game contender.
As the fight went on, it took on the feel of the first Julio Caesar Chavez Jr – Brian Vera bout in that one man threw more punches while another man threw harder punches. Those body blows from Provodnikov, though, those body blows were painful to watch, much less to feel firsthand. That didn’t keep Andre Ward, Jim Lampley, and Max Kellerman of HBO from being impressed with Algieri, however.
The fifth ended with a thunderous hook from Provodnikov. Algieri remained standing, but really look beat up as he sat in his corner. Still, he was back bouncing around again to start the sixth. Provodnikov may have been the Siberian Rocky, but Algieri was acting like the Long Island Rocky. The fight was certainly no blow out.
One couldn’t help but get the feeling that if Algieri had only had more power to his punches, the bout would have been a far different affair. For his speed and movement frustrated the Siberian champion. You could almost hear Algieri’s corner saying “if only…if only…”
By the end of the seventh, Provodnikov, looking tired and a bit slow, was still in control of the bout. Algieri, on the other hand, looked a mess. Yet, he inexplicably maintained his speed and confidence. How man other fighters could the same be said for after they’ve been nailed in the torso for twenty-one minutes? The man’s conditioning was extraordinary.
Impressively fit though he was, however, Algieri also began holding in the eighth. Furthermore, his face was a complete mess. How, then, was he able to look so good in the ninth? Whatever vitamins Algieri takes, he needs to start being a spokesman for them. For whatever else the bout was, Algeri had turned it into something of a head scratcher.
By the time the championship rounds arrived, it became clear that this was a match between skill and power. The skilled Algieri was proving to be quite a foil for the Siberian champion. Provodnikov, on the other hand, had beaten Algieri to a pulp throughout the course of the bout. Poor Algieri’s face had literally become grotesque.
Both men looked pretty awful as they sat on their stools between the eleventh and twelfth rounds. Yet there were still three minutes to go, three minutes to put an exclamation point on a very competitive fight. By the time the final bell rang, I felt Provodnikov had done enough to carry the night. The judges apparently disagreed.
Algieri won the fight by split decision.
Robbery or no, anyone who thought Algeiri would be an easy fight walking into Saturday was sadly mistaken. Algieri was a worthy contender and a serious competitor. Likewise, those who will now say Provodnikov looked bad in Brooklyn will be sadly mistaken, too. For Algieri was never going to be an easy fight for the Siberian, no matter what the experts may have believed.
Still, did Algieri really deserve to win?