By Sean Crose
He destroyed Mike Alvarado. He arguably came close to permanently hurting Tim Bradley. The great Juan Manuel Marquez stands accused of avoiding him. And Max Kellerman claims everyone else wants to avoid him, too. Clearly, it must be frustrating if you’re Ruslan Provodnikov. For while Bradley got to face Pacquiao for a second time and Alvarado got to face Marquez, Provodnikov ended up with Christopher Algieri, someone even most fight fans have probably never heard of.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
Not that Algieri is a joke. The fighter’s undefeated, after all. It’s just that Algieri’s not a marquee name. And at this point in Provodnikov’s travels it would appear the he’s earned himself some marquee fights. This, however, is boxing, a sport where there always seems to be a ready excuse just around the corner. There’s a cold war going on. The Siberian doesn’t promise to bring in a big audience. He’s lost two fights.
In short, there will always be a reason why the sport’s biggest names can avoid Provodnikov – and at this point, those reasons are seeming more and more like cop outs. Provodnikov may not be the most skilled fighter in the world, but he can hit. Man, can he hit. Here is an individual who punches so hard that his weaknesses as a boxer end up fading into the background.
Sure he’s slow – but he caught Bradley. Sure, he tends to loop his punches – but his punches beat Alvarado into submission. For every criticism of the man’s ability, the fact that Provodnikov can take out a wall evens the playing field for him. At least that appears to be the case. No one really knows for sure, because the only elite fighter Provodnikov’s ever faced is Bradley – and Bradley didn’t fight Provodnikov smart.
Still, the slugger from Siberia deserves the opportunity to let the world see for itself whether or not he’s an elite fighter. He’s earned that right, plain and simple. And, as a writer – but more importantly as a fan – I’m tired of hearing why Provodnikov can’t (or rather won’t) get another crack at the big time.
In other words, I don’t care about this joke of a cold war, I want to see Provodnikov face the likes of Garcia or Lamont Peterson. Or, if he moves back up to welterweight, I’d like to see him face the likes of Shawn Porter or – goodness! – even Floyd Mayweather. But Golden Boy and Al Haymon fighters aren’t the only ones who need to be put on notice here.
Manny Pacquiao has no reason in the world not to give Provodnikov a shot at his WBO title. This will be especially true if Juan Manuel Marquez begs out of a fifth encounter with the Filipino legend. Who cares if they train at the same gym? This is a sport where such niceties don’t always cut it. We get that Pacquiao and Provodnikov are friends, but it’s ridiculous to think friends can’t meet in the ring. Seriously, does every boxer have to hold a grudge against every opponent he or she faces?
So yes, it’s time for Provodnikov to get his moment in the spotlight. He may not make that moment last. He may get taken to school by Pacquiao or out-hustled by Porter. He just get bested by Garcia or out-skilled by Peterson, but the man deserves the chance to start really making his mark, regardless. Whether it’s unifying the titles at junior welterweight or moving back up a weight class to conquer the sport’s premiere division, it’s time for fans to see, really see, what Ruslan Provodnikov is made of.
Sure, he’s kinda scary – but that’s what a whole lot of fighters are supposed to be.