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Altitude Adjustment

(Ruslan Provodnikov using a hyperbaric chamber)
(Ruslan Provodnikov using a hyperbaric chamber)

Ruslan Provodnikov faces Mike Alvarado on Saturday night (HBO 9:45 p.m., ET/PT) at the 1STBANK Center in Broomfield, Colorado, just a few miles from the “Mile High City” of Denver. Alvarado is a native of the 303 while Provodnikov hails from Russia. For many years, as teams have come to play the hometown Broncos, there is always the conjecture and talk of having to adjust to the high altitude. Now it’s Provodnikov’s turn to deal with this issue.

For years, boxers have been going up to the mountains of Big Bear to train for fights but really, that’s more about the solitude and privacy it provides than the elevation.
Gavin MacMillan, who was in charge of Provodnikov’s strength-and-conditioning, says there is a fallacy to “altitude training.”

“The myth is if you’re training at altitude that there is a benefit in terms of how your body is going to process oxygen better, that you’re going to increase your red blood cell count and it’s been proven that’s not true,” he told Maxboxing earlier this week from Colorado. “The recent studies have shown that actually training at sea level is the best way for your body to improve its oxygen-carrying abilities and that sleeping in an altitude chamber or something similar to that will actually have a lot of benefits in terms of restoring and recovery.
“So the misconception is the oxygen content and people don’t realize it’s a pressure difference.”
To prepare for this particular fight, MacMillan explains, “We have taken [Provodnikov] - starting nine weeks out from the fight - running at 8,000 feet in Big Bear. We would go there every Saturday to do that. He was also running six-and-a-half miles uphill once a week in Los Angeles and then we were using a hyperbaric chamber to make sure that his oxygen saturation was at its maximum. So we helped his recovery.”
Provodnikov accompanied Freddie Roach to Orlando - as Miguel Cotto faced Delvin Rodriguez earlier this month - then headed to Denver a full two weeks before this fight. “We did that on purpose because I don’t want any mental issues for Ruslan. I want him focused on beating Alvarado, not worried about whether or not he can adjust to the altitude,” explained MacMillan, who works extensively with Georges St. Pierre and overlooked Cotto’s conditioning for his last bout. “He came in and did 10 rounds of sparring last week. When we got here, we went to Red Rock Park, where it’s another 1,500 feet higher and we did two intense runs without a problem. So I feel we’ve attacked this in every single way we can think of.”
Like more and more fighters such as Tim Bradley, Provodnikov utilizes a hyperbaric chamber during his training camp. MacMillan, the founder of Sports Science Lab, who has trained hundreds of professional athletes, is a believer in this practice.
Ruslan Provodnikov
“I’ve used them off and on for at least 10 years - maybe longer - for different things,” he states. “The original use I had for them was because I dealt with a lot of injuries with athletes over the years and the hyperbaric chamber definitely helps in the injury process in terms of recovering. Oxygen is one of the body’s primary healing agents and so making sure that you’re getting the proper oxygen saturation in your body is important. A lot of times when people are at altitude, the minute they come off, if they’re climbing a mountain or anything else like that, then they are immediately put in an oxygen saturation mask and get that percentage back.”
So how much of performing in altitude is really psychological versus physical?
MacMillan says, “In Denver, I’d say it’s 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical. The reason why I say that is Denver isn’t considered high altitude because it’s only 5,200 feet. True high altitude is above 8,000. So it’s mental and I just went to the Broncos game on Sunday because Will Blackmon plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s somebody I trained for years. But football teams don’t come in here any earlier. They fly in on Saturday and then play the next day and obviously, they don’t feel it’s a concern.”
Back in March, Provodnikov was in a back-and-forth affair with Bradley, which might be the best fight of 2013. That bout was contested at welterweight; this contest versus Alvarado is for the WBO junior welterweight title, meaning Provodnikov will have to come in seven pounds lighter.
MacMillan isn’t concerned.
"The first day that he came in, I was actually worried,” he admitted, “I thought he actually wasn’t in great shape and we were going to have to push it harder from the beginning but I think he was just adjusting to the jet lag and by the end of the first week, he was running well, moving well and so he came in really good shape. What we worked on a lot was improving his core strength. We’ve worked a lot on his footwork and used the footwork drills as a conditioning tool at the same time.
“And then of course, it’s making sure that he’s prepared and ready to do what Freddie needs him to do.”
For this fight, Provodnikov is enrolled in the VADA drug testing program. MacMillan, believes boxing - and everyone involved in the business - should call for and participate in stricter drug testing protocols.
“Absolutely. People are attempting to make a living at this and the ones that are honest like Ruslan is, if you’re having to deal with an athlete that isn’t willing to do VADA testing, the immediate question is: why? Why are you not doing it? Because if you’re not, then there’s clearly a reason. What can the reason be? It can’t be that you’re doing everything correctly. I mean, I’m sure you watched the Bradley-[Juan Manuel] Marquez fight on Saturday; right? You’re going to tell me that Marquez’s body looked like it did before versus [Manny] Pacquiao last December?
“I mean, it’s a different person. So it obviously goes on and you don’t want to throw accusations at anybody but it’s like, where is the drastic change come from? That would be my question to that.”
A lot has been written about the P.E.D./drug testing issue on this website by our very own Gabriel Montoya regarding the T/E ratio, its importance in catching those trying to skirt the rules ( ) and how Nevada was a bit behind the times. Well, it’s looks like they have gotten in line and lowered their accepted standards for the T/E ratio.

Keith Kizer, Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, explained to Maxboxing, “We had a public meeting on September 4th and we had a medium-term panel, a steroid and drug advisory panel that met about eight months and they filed a report in early August and then the next commission meeting was early September and that’s one of the things they adopted but with the understanding that if you’re between four and six or maybe even a little more than that, we’ll do a B-sample test before we make any conclusions.”

There were some other adjustments made by the NSAC, which included its marijuana testing to be in line with WADA standards and they now test for hGC (human chorionic gonadotropin, best known as what Manny Ramirez got busted for a few years ago).

When asked if the NSAC is undergoing an evolution in terms of its testing and standards, Kizer responds, “Well, there always has been. It wasn’t that long ago really; if you look at it, we started doing steroid testing in 2001. So it wasn’t that long ago in the grand scheme of things. We weren’t even testing everybody until I put it in about four years ago.

“So there’s always going to be an evolution and there has to be because you know there are people out there trying to cheat the test or find ways around the test, so there’s an evolution and will always be an evolution if you’re doing things right.”


Word is Roach will not be in Provodnikov’s corner this weekend and Marvin Somodio will be in charge...Yes, Juan Diaz is on the card this weekend but really, the undercard on Saturday night is Clemson-FSU from Death Valley...See you in Denver, folks...

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