By Sean Crose
It wasn’t that long ago that Ruslan Provodnikov was must see television. After losing to both Chris Algieri and Lucas Matthysse, however, it’s clear the man known as the Siberian Rocky has fallen from on high. Appearing in Monte Carlo tomorrow, the former junior welterweight titlist (24-4) will face little known Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez (14-0) of Mexico. Rodriguez may be undefeated, but his competition has been far from stellar.
This, of course, makes him something of the polar opposite of Provodnikov, a man who has faced everyone from Matthysse and Algieri to Mauricio Herrera to Mike Alvarado. He’s also most famously faced Tim Bradley, who will be highlighting a much more showy card this exact same weekend in Vegas when he faces the pitbull named Brandon Rios.
Despite going from the spotlight to under the radar, the bold and gutsy Provodnikov remains confident. “I will,” he stated at a press conference, “be world champion again.” These may prove to be more than empty words, provided this fighter’s fighter hasn’t endured too much damage throughout his career. In a world where a supposed pariah like Guillermo Rigondeaux might land a major fight with Vasyl Lomanchenko, anything is possible.
Provodnikov, after all, is exciting. Boxing’s twitter warriors, an often hostile and nasty bunch, love the guy. What’s more, the man has a new trainer in the talented and knowledgeable Joel Diaz – the same Joel Diaz who led Bradley to victory over Provodnikov a few years back. If he wins big on Saturday, Provodnikov’s name may be right back up there in the conversation. This will be especially true if Diaz has managed to teach his new pupil new tricks.
For Provodnikov, exciting though he is, has proven himself to be somewhat limited. Sure, he almost beat Bradley, but that was because Bradley REALLY had something to prove after his controversial decision win over Manny Pacquiao. Since then Provodnikov has lost some close ones, the first time to Algieri, the second time to Matthysse in a war last spring in upstate New York.
The loss to Algieri was controversial, but the guy was clearly bested by Matthysse, who has gone on to be soundly beaten by Viktor Postol. As for Algieri, he’s teamed up with John David Jackson and looks to be a whole new and improved fighter since being thrashed by Manny Pacquiao in late 2014.
Will Provodnikov go the Algieri route? Will he return new and improved with a different trainer? No one will know until he steps into that ring in Monte Carlo. If Provodnikov looks good, though, he may once again find himself back in the spotlight. Algieri has expressed genuine interest in a rematch. Undoubtedly there are other brave souls out there who will be willing to throw down with the man, as well.
If Provodnikov does emerge from under the radar, however, will there be any guarantee he won’t slide right back to the margins? Of course not. If he changes course, though, if he ups his skill set while keeping his desire burning, the sky may be the limit – or at least a junior welterweight championship. Or even a welterweight one.