Ruslan Provodnikov is an anachronism, more hewn it seems from a sepia-tinged time when television fights were shown on flickering black-and-white Philcos than the flat-screen high-definition TVs we have today. It is the style with which he fights: take two to land one, take three to land one, take four to land one. The Russian cannot get out of the way of a punch; it almost appears as if he likes getting hit.
Provodnikov will not have any problems in that area when he faces Lucas “The Machine” Matthysse on Saturday at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y. Many fight fans are predicting it will be a “Fight of the Year” candidate on HBO.
The 31-year-old Provodnikov (24-3, 17 KOs) has had a run of tough luck these last two years. He is 2-2 in that span, losing controversial decisions to Timothy Bradley and Chris Algieri. In both fights, Provodnikov knocked down his opponent, Algieri twice in the first round. Still, Bradley and Algieri came out ahead. Has it reached a point in the back of Provodnikov’s mind that he needs to knock out the 32-year-old Matthysse (36-3, 34 KOs) to win?
“Things happen in a fight and I don’t want to question a judge’s dignity, so I don’t worry about it; and I’m going on to bigger fights no matter what,” Provodnikov said through his manager, Vadim Kornilov. “I am making corrections to certain mistakes I make in the fight about not finishing, making corrections. The earlier the better: That’s always my goal, part of my style, but hopefully, it doesn’t happen to me that way again.”
Provodnikov has a light attitude. He does not feel as if he was wronged in the Bradley and Algieri losses. The fact that no excuses will spill out of Provodnikov’s mouth is actually a little refreshing.
“Those fights happened the way they happened, and there are obviously reasons for it, but I made corrections and went on,” Provodnikov said. “I think it is the way life has happened for me.”
Will we see a different Provodnikov than fight fans have come to expect? He shakes his head, “No.” He has had issues with finishing an opponent once has him hurt. He admits there have been endurance problems in the past, too. To correct that area of concern, he has logged more miles to his running regimen for this fight so he can track down Matthysse if he hurts him in the latter rounds.
Another interesting factor with this fight is that Marvin Somodio will be working Provodnikov’s corner instead of hall-of-fame trainer Freddie Roach, who has been committing all of his time to preparing Manny Pacquiao for his big showdown against Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 2. Somodio worked Provodnikov’s corner when he defeated Mike Alvarado in Denver -- Alvarado’s hometown -- in October 2013.
“I trust Marvin 100 percent, and we’ve been working together for many years now,” Provodnikov said. “Marvin brings everything I need to the corner. If I didn’t trust him, he wouldn’t be in my corner. I trust Marvin as much as I trust Freddie. He’s Freddie’s right-hand man, and that’s all I need to know.”
Matthysse can pose problems for Provodnikov. He has power, but as Danny Garcia proved, he can be out-boxed. The likelihood of Provodnikov doing that, however, seems remote.
“He’s just another fighter,” Provodnikov said about Matthysse. “He’s not on the level of someone like Tim Bradley. I have a lot of experience. I have seen different styles in the ring. This fight is what I want, because I expect it to be a toe-to-toe fight anyway. It’s what I like. The only thing I have to be is focused in the ring. Other than that, I don’t see any problems in the fight. I’m sure I can walk right through him. I’m confident in myself. His power is not a problem for me.”
Joseph Santoliquito is the president of the Boxing Writer's Association of America and a frequent contributor to Sherdog.com's mixed martial arts and boxing coverage. His archive can be found here.
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