By Sean Crose
Some matchups are interesting. Some are of a high quality. And some are just explosive. This Saturday’s junior welterweight matchup between Lucas Matthysse (36-3) and Ruslan Provodnikov (24-3) is, at least on paper, explosive. That’s not hyperbole. Both men are action fighters, after all, and both are fan favorites.
What’s more, both are looking to move on after disappointing loses. Matthysse, after all, has never really regained his luster after being decisioned by Danny Garcia on the Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez undercard. As for Provodnikov, his controversial loss to Chris Algieri has marginalized him for close to a year now.
That being said, both men are aware of how important this bout, which will be held at the Turning Stone Casino in New York, is for their careers. “I have been training non-stop,” Matthysse declared, “way before the fight was officially announced.”
Indeed, the Argentine slugger appears to be working on improving his game. “I have been doing a lot of sparring to improve my speed and make sure I make as much contact with my opponent as possible,” he claimed.
Provodnikov, too, feels he’s ready to rise to the occasion. “I will not disappoint my fans and it will be a real war,” said the Siberian “Everything is going great with my training and will be ready for a really war in the ring.”
Yet, while most fans are expecting a true slugfest, Matthysse appears eager to show a craftier side in the ring this weekend. “My strategy against him will be to make sure to box and keep moving.” That may be trouble for Provodnikov, who’s pretty open about preferring sluggers to slicksters.
“Walking into the ring with a fighter that I know will fight back,” the Siberian said, “will definitely show that what I can do as a boxer than going up against a fighter who will just run.” Still, even if Matthysse isn’t as willing to engage as his opponent might hope, it’s truly questionable whether or not Provodnikov is concerned.
“I will be ready for whatever Matthysse does,” Provodnikov has argued.
The lightweight-welterweight realms are arguably the most exciting in boxing right now. There’s a lot – a whole lot – of great competition out there. Indeed, one has to wonder how either Matthysse or Provodnikov will stack up against the best and brightest.
After all, Matthysse’s conqueror Garcia looked anything but impressive in yet another questionable victory, this time over Lamont Peterson last weekend. Furthermore, Algieri, who at the very least gave Provodnikov fits last year, was made to look almost comical by Manny Pacquiao.
It’s worth noting, though, that some fighters don’t have to be the absolute best in order to be absolutely successful. Mickey Ward and Arturo Gatti proved that over and over again. It’s doubtful either was ever placed atop a pound for pound list, but both were thrilling and gave fans what they wanted.
“Fans can expect one of the greatest fights in the division,” Matthysse has said. Provodnikov has taken things even further.
“I 100% percent believe that this fight will be the fight of the year,” he’s claimed.
That’s a pretty tall order – and one which leads to another issue. How can these two possibly live up to the expectations set by this matchup? One is left with the distinct impression that if Saturday’s bout is not Hagler-Hearns (which went down 30 years ago this week), then people will be disappointed.
Could it be that both men have put themselves – or have been put by a hyped up fan base – into an impossible situation? Perhaps. Yet if any two fighters can come close to providing an entertaining fight, it’s these two.
And that’s saying something.