Algieri v Provodnikov – At Second Glance

I have always been comfortable admitting when I am wrong. It doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t hurt my ego. If anything, the admission of fault or lack of knowledge on a particular subject can be rewarding. It could even be a teaching lesson.

Moments after the split decision victory that awarded New Jersey native and heavy underdog Chris Algieri the WBO Junior Welterweight title against the heavy-handed Russian, Ruslan Provodnikov, I went to Twitter and claimed that two of the judges, who scored the fight 114-112 for Algieri, simply made a mistake.

My exact tweet read: “Can’t give that win to Algieri. Not more active, just more defensive. Not harder punches, just more touches”

Personally, I scored the fight 117-110 for Provodnikov, as did several media members, fans and one member of the HBO broadcast team. It just didn’t seem plausible that someone could come back from two knockdowns in the first round and a battered face that left him blind in one eye for nearly all of the fight.

Chris Algieri, a local fighter from nearby New York, had the majority of the 6,000 fans rooting him on at The Barclays Center in New Jersey, and proved everyone wrong winning his first title. Algieri survived the early onslaught from Provodnikov and managed to outbox the Russian for the better part of the fight.

Algieri never panicked during the fight despite the two knockdowns in round 1 and was able to absorb hard shots from Provodnikov throughout the fight. His will to win was simply greater than Provodnikov’s on that night.

Ruslan Provodnikov, who is known as “The Siberian Rocky,” was set to make his first title defense against a relatively unknown fighter in Chris Algieri. The title defense of the WBO Junior Welterweight title was setup to showcase Provodnikov’s skills, his relentless fighting style and the rugged upbringing he endured in his native Russia.

Provodnikov, who took the title from Mike Alvarado last year, forced Alvarado to quit on his stool in the later rounds, which was a first for Alvarado. Provodnikov’s previous loss to Timothy Bradley, which was a fight of the year candidate and the dismantling of Alvarado introduced the world to Ruslan Provodnikov.

Tales of Provodnikov’s upbringing, courage and willingness to lay his life on the line start with where he came from and quickly made him a fan favorite. A troubled teen that grew up in a harsh, poverty-ridden area of eastern Russia, Provodnikov admits that he was heading down a scary path until boxing saved his life. The stories of Provodnikov eating raw meat and moose liver for most of his life are a testament of the toughness he has. The stories make him a very interesting person and fighter.

Often seen screaming to his crowd of fans, Provodnikov acts like he fights, which makes him genuine and relatable to the fans who seek an action-packed fighter willing to put it all on the line.

When the fight was made with Chris Algieri, it created little to no buzz among the boxing community. While some hardcore fight fans may have appreciated the matchup, to the casual boxing fan it appeared that Provodnikov would be in a position to beat Algieri at will. And for two minutes in the first round that scenario seemed to be playing out like a laughably predictable Tyler Perry movie.

Unfortunately, for Provodnikov and his trainer, Freddie Roach, Chris Algieri had different plans.

To understand how Algieri was able to climb up from the canvas in that first round and continue to fight another 11 rounds with an eye that was almost completely closed, you have to become familiar who Chris Algieri is.

A relative unknown, Algieri, started as a Kickboxer and began his career outside of boxing by fighting in more than ten international kickboxing events. A college graduate with a degree in healthcare science from New York Institute of Technology, Algieri has dedicated his life to physical fitness and boxing. It wasn’t until the age of 23 that he developed his boxing skills and began a professional boxing career. In boxing circles around the world you would be hard-pressed to find someone who believes a fighter in their early twenties could simply pick up the sport and excel at it. To the hardcore boxing fans this story was yet another reason why Provodnikov would have no issue handling Algieri.

On Saturday night, while “The Siberian Rocky” was supposedly given a fresh piece of raw moose liver to chew on, Algieri wanted to have a breakout moment. Algieri who closely resembles America’s “Rocky” was in a fight for his life. A fight that he had been imagining for many years.

After reading the opinions of well-respected boxing writers, I began to wonder if I had scored the fight wrong. I certainly saw Algieri box like a crafty veteran, using his jab to create space and his feet to minimize the pressing style Provodnikov implores on his opponents; however, I also saw Provodnikov, a titleholder, hunt Algieri down and land huge shots that made a ‘thudding’ sound through the television.

CompuBox numbers supported Algieri’s active approach as he out-landed Provodnikov in total punches and maintained a superior landing percentage of 29% versus Provodnikov’s 26%. The question remains how can anyone dismiss the fighter who was landing the bigger, harder and more significant blows? Provodnikov clearly landed the harder shots opposed to Algieri who was the more active fighter.

I decided that the best approach would be to watch the fight again with an open mind. My original score of 117-110 for Provodnikov was a popular score among fans on Twitter, media members and ringside Judge Max Deluca. It was time to see if there is anything I may have missed.

I watched the fight closely and considered all factors when rescoring the fight. The first round was capped off by the two knockdowns in Provodnikov’s favor and started him in the right direction with a clear-cut 10-7 round.

Provodnikov continued to land the bigger punches, apply the pressure and walk through the light taps Algieri was flashing throughout the fight. I had round 3 and round 6 in favor of Algieri, which meant that he was still far behind on the cards given the favorable first round for Provodnikov.

The second half of the fight mirroed the first half in terms of action, however, Algieri was able to show some legitimate boxing skills to keep Provodnikov at bay. I had Algieri winning three of the final five rounds, which gave me a final scorecard of 115-111 in favor of Provodnikov.

While I had Provodnikov winning the fight and retaining his title, it was clear that a fighter like Algieri is a tough matchup for Provodnikov. Provodnikov admitted as much in the post-fight interview. That is something Provodnikov is going to have to adapt to in order to stay atop the division.

One of my final tweets from Saturday night read: “Boxing lost tonight…again.”

Again, I can admit when I am wrong, because if anything that fight demonstrated why boxing is so great and why fans should appreciate a fight like Algieri-Provodnikov and most importantly the men who entertained us for 36 minutes of non-stop action.

I cannot be certain that Provodnikov will hold a belt again. His weight class and the one above him are loaded with talent. I can however guarantee you that we will see “The Siberian Rocky” again. And trust me; you would not want to be the fighter matched up against him following a devastating loss like he just endured.

I also am unsure what boxing has next for the new champion Chris Algieri. While his victory against Provodnikov may have elevated him up the rankings, I didn’t get the impression that he could step into the ring against fighters like Floyd Mayweather or Danny Garcia at this moment. I will say this. After Saturday night I will be the first person to watch him fight again and the last person to question is ability.

Ruslan Provodnikov and Chris Algieri may meet again. Or they may not. But one thing is for sure. As long as these two fighters give fans an effort like they did on Saturday night, then we are all winners.

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