cover image via Michael V. Ornelas (Rocky Mountain Boxing)
HBO picked the right two fighters to feature on HBO Boxing Saturday before they aired their Legendary Nights: The Tale of Gatti-Ward documentary. Both Ruslan “The Siberian Rocky” Provodnikov and “Mile High” Mike Alvarado are known for their iron chins and huge hearts. Neither had been knocked down before and they both have several FOTY candidates under their belts. In his most recent outing Provodnikov had Timothy Bradley on the canvas for the first time in his career, though one was incorrectly ruled a slip. Alvarado was coming off a win over Brandon Rios in which he had avenged his only loss of his career. Going into the fight the experts had HBO were of the thought that Alvarado would have to avoid getting drawn into a brawl, and needed to use his superior boxing to win this fight. He was able to do that at times but Provodnikov was able to impose his will and forced Alvarado to fight his fight.
Alvarado is the kind of fighter who can outbox you but he also has the heart, chin and toughness of a brawler. He is a latecomer to boxing not picking it up until he was twenty-years-old following in the footsteps of a biological father he never knew. This was after a high school wrestling career that had been influenced by the step-father who raised him. Contrary to what Max Kellerman thinks, his boxing career does not answer the nurture vs nature debate and his wrestling background helps in more than just cutting weight in boxing.
Allow me to answer the question that was put to Kellerman about Alvarado’s wrestling background before the fight. The advantages he gets from his wrestling days does include weight cutting as Alvarado was nine pounds heavier on the morning of the fight. This is an advantage for him but not his biggest. Alvarado is an orthodox fighter naturally but he switches stances frequently depending on the fight. This comes from his wresting background as a wrestler his lead leg would have been his right leg which is the lead leg for a southpaw boxer. It is the stance that he is more comfortable with and allows to switch stances during his fight. Unfortunately for him Provodnikov did not care what stance he was in and just kept punishing him with his left hook to the head and the right to the body.
The first round was a rough one for Alvarado as Provodnikov was able to land several clean shots during the round to both the head and the body. He was able to control the distance and they spent much of the round in the middle with their heads together, chins tucked, crouched over looking to swing and slip punches. When Alvarado would try to create space with his footwork Provodnikov did an excellent job of cutting him off. To label Provodnikov a brawler does not give enough credit to his footwork. Too often people will overlook someone’s skills just because they are willing and able to absorb more punishment than the average fighter. Provodnikov will never be accused of being slick inside the ring but he frequently ducked and slipped punches in this fight.
The fight’s momentum shifted to Alvarado in the second and third rounds as Alvarado used his uppercuts, his jab and footwork to find the right mixture of boxing and brawling. In these two rounds Provodnikov was chasing more instead of cutting off the ring. In the second round with thirty seconds left i the round Alvarado caught Provodnikov with a vicious overhand right that had Provodnikov hurt for a moment but was not able to capitalize on it. During these two rounds it seemed like Provodnikov was figuring out the adjustments Alvarado made after the first round. He threw almost half the punches of Alvarado in the second round and started to pick it back up in the third.
In the fourth and fifth rounds it was Provodnikov who made the adjustments and had Alvarado’s timing down. He started to land the left hook to the head and the right to the body. Throughout these two rounds he was able to keep the pressure on Alvarado. There were several exciting toe-to-toe moments in these rounds. During these exchanges both fighters were landing but Provodnikov was getting the better of them, and he was dictating the fight. It was Provodnikov that was leading their dance of Alvarado circling and Provodnikov coming forward and angling to cutoff him off. Provodnikov was also getting more comfortable with Alvarado switching stances.
Just when it looked like Provodnikov was taking control of the fight Alvarado came back in the sixth to win that round. He was using his uppercuts early in it. Then Provodnikov started in with his left hook at one point landing five straight that Alvarado ate easily, and responded with a combination of his own. He then used his jab to score but Provodnikov went to work the body. Alvarado responded with two straight lefts to Provodnikov’s body. They continued the rest of the round with Provodnikov pressuring forward, Alvarado dancing away planting and engaging to dance away again. It was a close round, one that continually ebbed and flowed from one fighter to the other. It was very much like the first half of the fight and after six rounds it was an even fight. Both fighter’s faces showed the handiwork of their respective fists with swelling above their eyes.
Alvarado started the seventh round with more pressure of his own trying to back Provodnikov up. He would have had better luck trying to move one of the mountains that surround the city as Provodnikov has no reverse gear. Kellerman and Roy Jones Jr described the fight has a “brutal chess match” between these two fighters and their respective corners. With a little over a minute left in the round Alvarado cut Provodnikov with a left hook over his right eye. The blood does not bother Provdnikov at all and he landed several more of his left hooks on Alvarado whose right eye was swelling up quickly from them. The round ended with a three punch combo from Provodnikov. It was another close round with again Alvarado winning the early part, Provodnikov taking the middle, and a close finish to the round that seemed to also go to him.
Alvarado needed to respond to as the rounds were getting more precious, but instead it was Provodnikov who seized the moment. He started out quickly in the round and landed several left hooks to the head and right hands to the body. It was a thudding right to the body at the 2:09 mark of the round that started Alvarado’s demise. A glancing right, left off the head and a solid right hand to the solar plexus. Alavarado tried to dance away to his left but Provodnikov moved in sync with him landing at solid right hook, left hook combo. That left Alvarado in the corner and Provodnikov used a calm aggressive violent flurry to put Alvarado down. It was several to the head and two to the body and Alvarado barely beat the count. Two more left hooks and Alvarado engaged in the first clinch of the fight with just over a minute and a half left in the eighth round. Alvarado tried to respond with an uppercut but it just glances off of Provodnikov who responded with another thudding right hook to the body that had Jones Jr exclaiming, “ooooh, that body shot right there.” Provodnikov followed it up with another flurry that beat Alvarado down to the canvas. This time he beats the count slightly quicker but he was in pure survival mode at this point. He some survived a solid left hook to the head. He then fired back with a mini-flurry of his own, but Provodnikov ate them and came forward. Some how Alvarado dug deep and the last thirty seconds are spent in each others face trading shots to the head and body. Provodnikov had slowed a little himself as the round wound down.
Going into the ninth it was now entering desperation time for Alvarado. The eighth was a huge 10-7 round for Provodnikov and Alvarado needed to either stop him or at least put him down to get back into the fight. He came out firing away and his hometown crowd were on their feet cheering him on. Unfortunately “The Siberian Rocky” was not daunted by the crowd nor Alvarado’s punches. He kept coming forward and landed more damaging body shots from his right hand and then the left hook back to the head. After those body shots Provodnikov had seized control of the fight. He was completely comfortable with Alvarado in the ring. Still, Alvarado fired away but his punches were having no affect on Provodnikov who was living up to his “Siberian Rocky” nickname.
Alvarado survived the round and somehow remained upright in the tenth round, but just barely as Provodnikov had him wobbly in the closing seconds of the round. He staggered over to his corner with his right almost swollen shut. Right away his corner told him that he needs to stop the fight and there was very little protest from the battered Alvarado. Referee Tony Weeks came over into the corner to ask Alvarado if he can continue and waved the fight off. It gave Provodnikov the biggest win of his career with a tenth round TKO.
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It was violent brutally beautiful fight between two tough warriors. Through seven rounds they were virtually even and it was the eighth round that was the difference because of Provodnikov’s relentlessness. Alvarado fought with a huge heart and just ran into a better fighter on this night. It was the perfect fight to lead you into HBO’s Gatti-Ward special. It would be unfair to compare this fight to them but it had many of the elements that made Gatti-Ward so special. Who knows if Alvarado can make some adjustments in a rematch it could set them up for their memorable trilogy.
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