Saturday night’s fight between Ruslan “Siberian Rocky” Provodnikov and Chris Algieri was perfectly captured by the closing remark of HBO’s Jim Lampley:
“Boxing is the theater of the unexpected.”
Until Provodnikov’s first title bout was scheduled and Algieri named as his opponent, few outside of Long Island had ever heard of this one-time kickboxing champion turned undefeated boxer. Algieri was well aware of that.
He was coming to take Provodnikov’s title, and in the process he said the fight would do for him what Provodnikov’s fight against Timothy Bradley did for the Siberan Rocky. Algieri was right. With just one performance, Algieri jumped to the forefront of the boxing world and even entered the conversation as a possible opponent for Manny Pacquiao.
Algieri earned the respect of many not by winning a split decision and taking the title, but by fighting through two knockdowns in the first round that left his face looking like Sloth Fratelli from “The Goonies.”
The Long Island fighter outworked the champion in virtually every round, using his incredible stamina to propel him quickly around the ring and out of the reach of Provodnikov.
The champion’s work rate slumped after the second round, when he also started having increasing difficulty cutting off the ring. Provodnikov landed the harder, crisper punches, but in the eyes of two judges that wasn’t enough. Jim Lampley saw things differently, saying:
“I personally agree with Steve Weisfeld that Provodnikov was the deserving winner of the fight.”
Provodnikov made no excuses. In the post-fight interview he simply said, “Runners are not my style.” Mike Alvarado and Tim Bradley were two runners Provodnikov was able to catch up to. This defeat might make it easier for the gritty Siberian to get more fights because now would-be opponents might be under the misunderstanding that there’s a clear method for taming Provodnikov’s ferocity. What they should consider before inking any contracts is that Algieri’s performance surpassed what Bradley and Alvarado accomplished in large part because of his physical advantages and not just his skill. The chart below starts to paint the picture.
|Ruslan Provodnikov||Timothy Bradley||Mike Alvarado||Chris Algieri|
|Reach||67.5 inches||69 inches||69.5 inches||72 inches|
Because they were basically the same size as Provodnikov, Bradley and Alvarado had much less room for error than Algieri. Provodnikov had less distance to cover to close the gap with Bradley and Alvarado than he did with Algieri. Boxing is a sport of inches, and the contrasts between what Bradley/Alvarado brought into the ring and what Algieri came in with makes all the difference in the world.
Regardless, Algieri fought the fight of his life. At 140 pounds, the only real money to be made is against Danny Garcia. With Bob Arum and Oscar De La Hoya mending their relationship, that match-up might be possible. If Garcia hits Algieri with the same left hook Provodnikov landed in the first, however, you can be sure Algieri won’t be waking up.
The most deserving opponent would be Mauricio Herrera, who gave Provodnikov his first loss and in the eyes of many also handed Danny Garcia his first loss (although the judges disagreed). A highly skilled and awkward boxer, Herrera would present Algieri incredible problems. But with people whispering that Algieri could become Pacquiao’s next opponent, the chances are slim to none that Herrera will get the nod.
Newfound fame in boxing is often short-lived. Algieri doesn’t have long to capitalize on his star-rising performance. Before long, people will begin to forget the boxing lesson he put on and replace that memory with the baseball-sized swelling that completely closed his right eye. Then again, that eye might make him seem vulnerable enough for a big name to give him a shot.
A former college wrestler, Taekwondo black-belt, and wannabe boxer, Paul Navarro (aka Fight Like Sugar) is now a full-time lawyer, part-time fight scribe, and high school wrestling coach.