By Sean Crose
“Yes, he’s training with me,” Joel Diaz said when asked if he and Ruslan Provodnikov, the Siberian Rocky, had combined forces.
“He came to me,” Diaz added, “and he’s there for me to improve him and we made some improvements with just a couple of weeks.” So, yeah, the rumors are true – Ruslan is with Joel. What’s more, they’ve been together for a few weeks now.
Truth be told, Provodnikov has hit a bit of a rough patch for the past year or so. Not only did the man lose a controversial, and close, decision to Chris Algieri, but he was also beaten soundly by Lucas Matthysse this past spring. Although always exciting, it’s now clear there are limitations to the man’s game.
Or perhaps there were. Diaz makes it clear that he’s working toward upping the junior welterweight’s ring performance. “I just need to him to be more of an aggressive fighter with a smart defense,” the trainer said.
Those words “smart defense” are telling. For a guy who can take out a wall and who’s always on the attack, Provodnikov gets hit an awful lot. Were he to somehow keep from getting hit as much, it might up his game exponentially.
Yet Diaz also has plans for Provodnikov’s offense as well. “Learn to cut off the ring a little more,” he said. “I want to make him a body puncher.” Diaz went on to explain his desire for Provodnikov to start with the body, then move on up towards the head instead of simply being a head hunter.
The move from famed trainer Freddie Roach to Diaz is at least giving Provodnikov some positive attention at a critical time. Reports that the man can’t land a decent fight have been making the rounds, along with word that Top Rank CEO Bob Arum hasn’t been keen on matching him up with his top stars, claiming Provodnikov has to essentially re-establish himself first.
The move also gives some good press for Diaz, a talented trainer who recently parted ways with former Provodnikov foe Tim Bradley. In short, this has proven to be good news for both men so far. How well the partnership will ultimately work, of course, remains to be seen.
“I don’t want to change him,” Diaz said. “I just want to make him better at what he does.”
And what Provodnikov does, if nothing else, is entertain fans. After nearly besting Bradley in an absolute war a few years back, the man then literally beat Mike Alvarado into submission. Riding high, he was ultimately done in by judges who ruled in Algieri’s favor in front of a New York crowd. Provodnikov then went on to win easy in Russia against a past his prime Jose Louis Castillo before losing soundly to Matthysse in April. All the while, though, the man has been nothing if not entertaining.
A Provodnikov fight, in short, is a fan friendly fight. Who the man’s next opponent is remains to be seen. There was, however, an interesting Twitter exchange recently between Provodnikov and Algieri. “Rematch?” Provodnkiov asked the New Yorker. “Any time,” Algieri responded. “Took long enough to ask.”
Seeing that Provodnokov is now with Diaz and that Algieri has appeared much improved since teaming up with trainer John David Jackson, that bout might make for must see television…just like all fights involving the Siberian Rocky.