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Just How Good Is Ruslan Provodnikov?


by Sean Crose

Way back on April 2nd, 2002, Jose Luis Castillo defeated Floyd Mayweather in a WBC lightweight title bout.

Oh, the judges gave the victory to Mayweather, but Castillo won the bout. Don’t believe me? Check it out on YouTube for yourself. Castillo wasn’t supposed to win, the judges were determined to give the victory to Mayweather, but Castillo got the better of his opponent that evening regardless.

This Friday in Moscow, Russia, Castillo (66-12-1, 57 KOs) will be expected to lose once again, this time to Siberian brawler Ruslan Provodnikov (23-2, 16 KOs). Indeed most analysts feel the nearly forty-one-year-old Castillo has no business in the ring with the hard hitting Siberian Rocky. I’m not here to argue that point.

What I am here to do, however, is pose a question:

Just how good is Castillo’s opponent? Just how skilled is Ruslan Provodnikov?

There’s no doubt Provodnikov looked far from great in his last bout against Chris Algieri. While I and many others believed Provodnikov got robbed when the decision went Algieri’s way, there’s no denying that the kid from Long Island looked terrific for someone Provodnikov was clearly expected to beat.

The fact that Algieri was recently made to look foolish in the ring against Manny Pacquiao does Provodnikov’s reputation no favors, either. Why, it’s only sensible to ask, did the Siberian have such a hard time against Algieri last June? He put the kid down early, true, but then he ended up recklessly chasing Algieri around the ring for the rest of the fight.

Again, I felt Provodnikov did enough to win that evening; but man, he wasn’t impressive. The whole thing got me thinking back to a fight Provodnikov had a year or so earlier, this time against Timothy Bradley. Provodnikov was all over his opponent that night. He literally knocked Bradley senseless.

And Bradley was one of the top practitioners of the sport! While it’s true Bradley ended up winning the battle by decision, Provodnikov ended up on everyone’s radar. Word was that no one in the junior welterweight division wanted anything to do with Provodnikov after the Bradley tussle. Even the great Juan Manuel Marquez was reportedly unwilling to face Provodnikov in the ring.

One has to wonder now, however, if Provodnikov may have been a bit of a hype job. While it’s true he proved himself to be the kind of hitter that could take out a redwood tree, it’s also true that Bradley intentionally fought the kind of fight he shouldn’t have engaged in against Provodnikov.

It’s worth remembering that Bradley at the time was still burned over the horrible and unfair publicity he was receiving after his shocking and controversial upset victory over Pacquiao the previous spring. In short, he was a man with something to prove. Rather than outgeneral Provodnikov in the ring, Bradley decided to fight with the guy.

It was a bad move, and it may have made Provodnikov look better than he truly was. Or is. Provodnikov may have gone on to beat Mike Alvarado into putty, but Alvarado was clearly not the best or most focused opponent Provodnikov had ever met in the ring. Again, Provodnikov looked great in a highly publicized bout, but no one seemed to have paid attention to the bigger picture.

Which, of course, led to the showdown with Algieri. I had written shortly before the bout that Algieri had a real chance in the fight. Not to brag, but I was right. Algieri was clearly nowhere near the caliber of a pay-per-view star, but he was certainly the caliber of fighter who could give Provodnikov a run.

And so, after Pacquiao’s subsequent destruction of Algieri in China, it’s time to put Provodnikov under the microscope. It’s time to see if he was able to stumble into a few scenarios where he looked terrific – or if he truly is that good a fighter (hey, he may have just had an off night against Algieri).

The truth is, I don’t exactly know where Provodnikov stands on the scale of quality. I suspect few do. It may be doubtful that an aging Castillo will provide the answer, either. Then again, you never know.

They say Floyd thought the man would be easy work all those years ago.

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