By Derek Bonnett: In the first half of 2010, undefeated junior welterweight, Ruslan Provodnikov progressed from being an interesting young hopeful to one of boxing’s brightest prospects. Provodnikov, a 26 year old from Ekaterinburg, Russia, now stands at 16-0 (11) as a professional following a reported 170-10 amateur career. Given his recent performances, experts can easily surmise that Provodnikov is ably adapting to the professional game.
"Russia has a uniform boxing system and each boxer is similar to another," Provodnikov explained. "In the USA, there are a lot of different boxing styles. This fact makes it more difficult to succeed in America, but at the same time it is more interesting. In 2007, I visited the USA for the first time because the American promoters invited me for a test bout. They liked me, so I started my career in America. Boxing taught me to tolerate a lot, be disciplined, and not to retreat from difficulties."
As of May, Provodnikov has engaged two typically difficult opponents head on and has dismantled them both. He started the year off with a stirring eighth round stoppage of the very seasoned Javier Jauregui in Temecula, CA. Jauregui, a former world champion, had not been stopped in almost 10 years or, in other words, since he threw hands with Acelino Freitas in 2000. On this occasion credit went to Provodnikov’s merciless two-fisted body attack, which would make Julio Cesar Chavez and Micky Ward both smirk in approval. Most recently, Provodnikov anticipated meeting fringe contender Francisco Figueroa, but the Puerto Rican fighter pulled out of the bout late. Instead, Provodnikov pounded the wily Emmanuel Augustus into submission for only the fifth time in thirty-two defeats. Three knockdowns were scored throughout the bout before it was stopped in the ninth.
"I can say that I’m more famous in the USA than in Russia," Provodnikov stated. "ESPN has made that possible. The TV exposure and the press have really helped me in developing my local career. I have been compared to Kostya Tszyu and I’m really proud of that, but I’m not trying to be like Kostya. I’m not trying to be like anyone else. I am creating my own history."
Jauregui and Augustus rank as formidable foes for any 16 bout professional looking to take on a challenge. One benefit boxing fans will reap from all the ESPN coverage Provodnikov has received is that he will likely be matched accordingly, particularly if he continues to win impressively. One possibility could be Julio Diaz, who recently revitalized his waning career with a victory over Herman Ngoudjo on ESPN airwaves. A Diaz-Provodnikov showdown would be an excellent next step for the network and should afford the impressive prospect with a valuable test as he works his way up the junior welterweight ladder.
"Professional boxing is much harder for me [than the amateurs], but I enjoy it a lot more. In these [recent] fights I tested myself. I learned that I could win when I have fights against experienced opposition."
Given the fact that both Jauregui and Augustus stepped in as late substitutes for younger opposition, experts might naturally speculate how Provodnikov might have fared against fresher opposition with more time to prepare him.
"I didn’t really like it that my opponent was changed at the last moment," Provodnikov admitted. "I think that the fight with Figueroa would have been better for my overall experience. [However,] I do not like to try to predict my fight outcomes; it’s hard for me to say anything about how the fight would have went with Figueroa."
Maybe we’ll get to see Figueroa-Provodnikov unfold at a later date. With any luck, boxing fans will be served up something better. However, it’s important to remember Provodnikov is still a developing professional. He’s looked scintillating up to this point, but he still has shown the need to work on his defense. One of the Russian fighter’s greatest strengths is his tendency to not waste his punches. Perhaps this is where some of the Tszyu comparisons emerged from.
The future looks bright for Ruslan Provodnikov, but tomorrow need not arrive in a hurry. It’d be a shame to see an exceptional talent such as Provodnikov rushed along instead of cultivated.
"I am already in the top ten rankings of the WBO in my weight class," Provodnikov stated. "I think two or three more fights would [lead me to] the important fights of my career. I know that some people would probably argue against me becoming a world champion, but I believe in myself and my will. I think I have the heart to get what I have dreamt of all my life."
Heart and will have been enough to carry more than just a few fighters to their dreams. Fortunately, Provodnikov has a murderous body attack to back them up.
June 15, 2010