By Sean Crose
“Despite winning the title,” Ruslan Provodnikov stated at a media luncheon on Tuesday, “I still feel like a challenger and I train like one.” He has good reason to still feel like a challenger, too. For he’s basically been treated like a terminal challenger by boxing’s powers that be. Big fights simply don’t come this guy’s way – a fact which stands in direct contrast with the Siberian’s plans.
“I am focusing on a shorter, more prominent career,” he said. “I only want the big fights.” It’s a shame the big fights aren’t materializing, but it’s easy to see why. Provodnikov is dangerous. Exceedingly dangerous. Just ask Tim Bradely. Or Mike Alvarado. Or Juan Manuel Marquez, who opted out of fighting Provodnikov in order to face Alvarado, the man Provodnikov had just beaten into submission.
In the age of Al Haymon, the man who picks low risk opposition is king. And Provodnikov is far from low risk opposition, even with the WBO Junior Welterweight Title around his waist. So while Danny Garcia, Provodnikov’s WBC counterpart, is rumored to be Floyd Mayweather’s next possible opponent, Provodnikov is stuck on HBO. Garcia, it should be noted, looked terrible in his last outing while Provodnikov looked magnificent in his. Make of that what you will.
Provodnikov isn’t so much written off by possible competition. He’s simply, and very conveniently, ignored. Things like boxing’s cold war make him easy to turn a blind eye to, after all. Therefore, Provodnikov is left to fight on, hoping his golden opportunity will someday arrive.
To his credit, the man isn’t taking on cushiony opponents. You can roll your eyes at Chris Algieri, Provodnikov’s foe this Saturday at the Barclay’s Center, all you want – but the guy’s not a joke. “I’m not in awe of fighting Ruslan at all,” he said at Tueday’s luncheon. “I’ve watched him fight in the past and I have a very strong game plan to beat him.”
Algieri, for the record, is a boxer of the slick, scientific variety. He’s also 19-0. In other words, he has a style and a resume which can possibly frustrate the pitbull Provodnikov. “My job on June 14th is to chase Algieri and hunt him down,” Provodnikov stated bluntly. “He should be more worried about me.”
News flash: Algieri isn’t coming across as worried at all. Not that it bothers Provodnikov. “I don’t have trouble with runners,” he claimed. “They have trouble with me.” Provodnikov may not have trouble with fighters who “run,” but he comes from a background where trouble and hardship were a part of life.
“I did not have an easy time growing up in Siberia,” he said. “I don’t know where my childhood friends are now. Most are probably in jail. I stole food, sniffed glue, smoked and drank.” Fortunately, boxing proved to be redemptive for the young man, as it had proven to be for countless young men before him.
“My amateur boxing coach,” Provodnikov claimed, “saved my life and helped to redirect my life toward being a productive person.” He’s certainly proven himself productive in the ring. For he’s made quite an impression on fans, writers, analysts and opponents alike. He’s also made life better for his family.
“My family is secure and my life has improved since I’ve become champion,” Provodnikov admitted. “Most of my goals have been achieved.” Still, he’s not one to rest on his laurels. “Now,” he said, “it is time to set new goals where I can help others.” Many in the former Soviet Union could undoubtedly use the hand.
Now, if only boxing’s elite would give Provodnikov the chance to use his fists against them.