By Sean Crose
“We always take fights seriously,” Freddie Roach said to me. I had just asked during a Wednesday conference call if he had to keep his fighter, Ruslan Provodnikov, from underestimating Chris Algieri. “You can’t take anyone for granted,” the famed trainer continued. “We know Algieri’s a good young boxer.”
Algieri, who will be facing Provodnikov at the Barclays Center June 14th, is a sharp, intelligent contender who speaks quickly, with a patented Long Island accent. An Agrentinian-American, he has a college degree and has an impressive record as a kickboxer. I asked the man if he viewed his kickboxing background as a benefit or as a detriment.
“I definitely do see it as a benefit,” he told me. “I think that has really carried over in my boxing career.” Will it carry over into a successful meeting with the Siberian terror, though? Algierei is certainly talented, but he doesn’t seem to be particularly slick. Nor does he poses thunderous punching power.
Still, one never can tell. Provodnikov, after all, was once known primarily as a veteran of ESPNs Friday Night Fights, just like Algieri is now. If people thought the Siberian native’s pedigree wasn’t adequate enough to give Timothy Bradley the run of his life, however, they were sadly mistaken.
“I don’t take any offense to it,” Algieri said of his underdog status. “I haven’t had those big name fights yet.” He’s got one now – and in his own back yard, no less. For Algieri is from Huntington, New York, just outside the Big Apple. And the Barclays Center, for those who don’t know, is right in Brooklyn.
Then again, New York has a significant Russian population, as well, meaning Provodnikov may end up feeling more at home than some might have expected. “We’re exited to finally have Ruslan fighting in New York,” Vadim Kornilov, Provodnikov’s manager said. The fighter himself, who has a record of stating his mind when he’s displeased, claimed he’s “very happy to be fighting in New York,” too.
One of the big questions leading up to this bout is not only whether or not Provodnikov will win, but whether or not Provodnikov will continue to look destructive in the ring. It’s clear the man’s being avoided at this point, meaning a fan based uproar may be needed in order to give the guy the sort of high profile matchup he deserves.
So, does the “Siberian Rocky” need to win in fantastic fashion in order to help his career along? “Definitely, it’s a big responsibility,” he said to me. “I have to fight like a champion.” Still, the man made it clear he was unwilling to sacrifice his well being in order to please everyone.
“No matter what, I don’t want to risk it to much,” he stated plainly. “I want to preserve my health no matter what.” Who can blame him? The most thrilling fighter in the world won’t make a dime if he can no longer fight. His quality of life won’t be that great, either.
In the end, this bout will be interesting for two reasons. First, it will allow Provodnikov to once again show his stuff to a public who clearly admires his style, and who has the power to shame others into facing him. Also, it will put the Siberian in the ring with someone who could possibly shock the world. Algieri is talented, after all. It would be unwise to dismiss his chances against Provodnikov out of hand.
Like the man from Huntington himself made clear, this is his first big fight. And at 19-0, you can be sure he’ll make the most of his opportunity.