Chris Algieri somehow slipped past Ruslan Provodnikov. | Photo Courtesy: HBO Boxing
BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- No one expected this. Not the HBO “Boxing After Dark” audience tuning in. Not most of the 6,218 fans that were in Barclays Center Saturday night. Maybe not even Chris Algieri himself. Certainly not Ruslan Provodnikov.
But it happened. It did happen, as soon as Michael Buffer announced ... “And new ...” shock set in when Algieri raised his arms, winning the WBO junior welterweight belt over the heavily favored “Siberian Rocky.”
Judges Don Trella and Tom Schreck each scored it 114-112 for Algieri (20-0, 8 KOs), while judge Max DeLuca had it 117-109 for Provodnikov (23-3, 16 KOs). Sherdog also scored it for Provodnikov, 114-112, as did most ringside observers.
Algieri, his right eye swollen and a fight résumé that comes nowhere in approaching Provodnikov’s, survived two first-round knockdowns and looked perilously close to being stopped in the opening minutes.
His battered, bruised face told one story. Punch stats, however, bore a different tale.
Algieri threw a total of 993 punches and landed 288 (29 percent) to Provodnikov’s 776 punches thrown and 205 connecting (26 percent). Provodnikov connected on 41 of 341 jabs (12 percent), while Algieri landed 111 of 566 jabs (20 percent). Algieri even outlanded Provodnikov in power punches: 177-427 (41 percent) to Provodnikov’s 164-434 (38 percent).
About a minute into the fight, a Provodnikov straight left dropped Algieri. With approximately 15 seconds left in the first round, Algieri took a knee for a second knockdown, after absorbing another blunting left.
“Getting out of the first round, after a slow start, I thought was the key to my success,” Algieri said. “But I figured out his rhythm, and that was another key to my success. I took a knee because I wanted to clear my head and to make sure my eye was OK.”
Apparently someone else thought Algieri was OK, too: judge Trella. He gave Algieri the next seven rounds, the second through the eighth, despite Provodnikov landing the heavier, more damaging blows.
“I think I did what I promised to do,” Provodnikov said afterward. “My face, you see, I’m good. I did my job. To me, it felt like he was running all night. How do you win a fight like that? Look at my face and look at his. If I was running like Chris, you guys would be falling asleep. I won’t let this loss get to me. The HBO [ringside announcers] gave nine more rounds to me. The local judges saw it the other way. If I looked the way he did, they would have stopped the fight. I think it’s unfair.”
Throughout the fight, Provodnikov was prone to load up on the left hook. When it landed, it had a telling effect on Algieri. The times it didn’t, it left Provodnikov open to be countered. Algieri gradually got into the fight by the middle rounds, but his right eye began swelling at a dangerous rate.
Between the fifth and sixth rounds, referee Harvey Dock was taking a good look at the damage to Algieri. By the eighth round, his right eye appeared completely closed.
“[Provodnikov’s] shots in the first four rounds were few and far between,” Algieri said. “I saw pretty well out of my eye until the eighth round, but after that I was blind by the 12th round. I was able to anticipate his left hook and I showed the world who Chris Algieri is. As heavy as this belt is, I don’t even feel it.”
As the rounds progressed, Provodnikov’s work rate seemed to fade. Algieri would tag him with one, sometimes poke at him with two jabs to the face. Still, Provodnikov kept coming forward. Algieri played the matador, bypassing his opponent’s advances and kept stinging Provodnikov.
Algieri made it a fight, despite fighting on with one eye shut.