by Johnny Walker
Tonight at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, Colorado, American WBO light welterweight world champion “Mile High” Mike Alvarado (34-2, 23 KOs) took on the “Siberian Rocky,” Ruslan Provodnikov (23-2, 16 KOs) in a title defense broadcast on HBO.
With both men coming off of what announcer Jim Lampley called “fight of the year” type wars (Alvarado prevailing over Brandon Rios in a rematch; Friday Night Fights graduate Provodnikov losing a competitive slugfest to Timothy Bradley), anticipation was high that this one would be pushing the proverbial needle into the red zone most of the night.
Often when such predictions are made, the fight in question turns out to be a dud, but in this case, the bout almost lived up to the hype. For most of the night, there was no shortage of action, mostly because of the pressure style of Provodnikov, whose relentless pressure made Alvarado abandon his original game plan early, and who eventually triumphed over the American with a withering attack of vicious body shots and left hooks that left the now former champion helpless by the end of the fight.
After Provodnikov showed his stuff and took round one as both men fired away, Alvarado began using increased lateral movement and tried to use his superior length to keep the Russian at bay. This strategy worked in rounds two and three, but soon, the Siberian Rocky reasserted himself, and Alvarado could do little as the Russian nailed him repeatedly with left hooks on the right eye.
After round four, it was Provodnikov who landed most of the clean power shots, forcing Alvarado to try to rally and again become more aggressive. But in doing so, the American sealed his fate.
By the end of round seven, the Russian was suffering from a cut near his right eye, while the champion’s right eye was becoming grotesquely swollen. But the Russian’s corner did a good job on his cut, and a fired-up Provodnikov, perhaps spurred on by his injury, then launched an all-out attack, set up by withering body blows, that put the American on the canvas twice in round eight.
From then on, it was a mere matter of time. Alvarado fought to survive in round nine, running as Provodnikov pursued and still managed to score with more body shots and left hooks.
Provodnikov again launched an all-out assault as round ten wound down, and as the bell rang, Alvarado was nearly out on his feet, slumped along the ropes.
Referee Tony Weeks then asked the champion if he wanted to go on, and not hearing an affirmative answer, quickly called the fight off, making Ruslan Provodnikov the new WBO Light Welterweight champion of the world via TKO stoppage at the end of round ten.
“I knew what I had to do was break him,” the proud Russian said after the fight. “I don’t care about the titles.”