It was the usual busy scene this past Monday morning at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood. Even in the early hours, this gym was bustling with activity by professional prizefighters and white collar clients alike. But as Ruslan Provodnikov stepped through those doors, slowly, the cacophony inside this building died down, replaced by an ovation for the Russian, who seemed a bit overwhelmed by the reception given him.
Photo © K9 Photos
No, he didn’t get the decision versus WBO welterweight champion Tim Bradley this past weekend at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. but in many respects, he had arrived - not just at the gym he calls his boxing home but on the boxing scene.
“I came into the gym today. I couldn’t talk; I was surprised [by the reaction],” he said through his manager, Vadim Kornilov. “This fight changed how everyone treats me and how everyone looks at me. I’m very happy for that.”
Yeah, he’s no longer just one of Manny Pacquiao’s sparring partners, who gain notoriety just for being in the same ring with the “Pac-Man” for months at a time prior to his battles. But now, Provodnikov has stamped himself as a player between 140 and 147. Any discussions of the best and most entertaining fighters in this region must include him. His bout with Bradley was a brutal affair, where he hurt him (and perhaps knocked down the “Desert Storm” in both the first and second rounds), had him dazed in the sixth and finally down in the dramatic last stanza. But this was two-way action that saw Bradley bruise and cut up Provodnikov with his own salvos. On this day, he wore dark glasses to cover his battle scars near his eyes. There aren’t many fights that get as grueling as this one. It’s the type that can shorten careers.
“I feel good,” said Provodnikov, matter-of-factly, as if it were just another day at the office, “except for a little pain here and there. My hands hurt a little bit; they’re a little bruised up from punching a lot. It’s all little things. I feel great.” You could see the swelling in his left hand but his right hand did the most damage. A booming right hand in the first irrevocably changed the course of this fight. A concussed Bradley was always one punch away from being hurt but somehow, he made it to the finish line. And he earned the admiration of the “Russian Rocky.” “I have to give him respect. He’s a big man; he’s a star. I couldn’t believe he was standing during those shots. I was giving him really hard shots.”
Photos © German Villasenor, MaxBoxing
However, at the end of the night, Bradley won by the scores of 115-112 and 114-113 (on two cards).
Freddie Roach, who trained Provodnikov, remarked, “[Ruslan] fought a good fight. Bradley fought bravely too in the middle rounds but I thought we landed the bigger shots. But I can’t complain about the decision; it was a hard-fought fight. I thought we had the edge. The referee’s a good referee but, obviously, I thought he missed the call, the knockdown in the first round. But sometimes that happens; we have to live with it.”
In the first round, it seemed a delayed reaction from Provodnikov’s first big right hand was ruled a slip by Pat Russell. In the next round, it looked as though Bradley was being held up by the ropes as Provodnikov was striking him. None of these rounds were scored 10-8 for Provodnikov but 10-9, which was key given the close nature of the final scorecards.
“At the end of the fight, we definitely felt like the winner,” said Kornilov. “To be honest with you, I told Ruslan right after the fight, ‘Ruslan, I don’t care about the belt. I don’t care about the decision. You did what I wanted and even more. I’m not asking for anything else. This is the best fight I’ve ever seen.’ The decision is questionable but it was all about the fight.” Bradley, a prohibitive favorite (as much as eight-to-one), was expected to easily skate around Provodnikov. At times, he did but while Provodnikov moved up in weight, he looked like the bigger man in there and was the heavier puncher. It’s much easier in theory to defeat Provodnikov than to actually do it. Over the course of time, he will get to you. “I said in many interviews before the fight, Tim Bradley said, ‘I’m just going to give him a boxing lesson,’ and I think that plan will change to ‘How will I stay on my feet through this fight?’ I’ve been quoted as saying that and that’s exactly what happened. So I expected this.”
Provodnikov stated, “We were getting ready for this; everything that Freddie and I worked on in camp - it all worked. We were hoping that he would come to fight and he did. And everything that we prepared for worked.”
No, he didn’t get the decision but in many ways, he was a winner on the night of March 16th.
“I think it was a career-changer,” said Artie Pelullo, who promotes Provodnikov. “I mean, he did what everyone who knows him thought he would do. He stepped up, rose to the occasion; he fought a great fight against a great champion. Ruslan was spectacular; he hurt him every time he hit him. He had him on the floor in the 12th and Bradley said to me after the fight that [Provodnikov] hits harder than Manny Pacquiao. So it was a tremendous fight; he lost the decision but he won the fight.” Coming into this affair, some derided Provodnikov as nothing more than an ESPN2-level fighter, something the veteran promoter took exception to. “There’s a lot of people who said he shouldn’t have been in the fight. He was overmatched; he’s a B-fighter; he only fought on ESPN. But ESPN is where you build people and Ruslan Provodnikov showed he’s a player between 140 and 147.”
In this business, if you want to make the real money, you have to earn the respect of the television executives, who control the checkbooks of the premium cable networks. “I’ve got emails from Kery Davis and Peter Nelson [of HBO] right now,” said Pelullo, who announced they are asking the WBO for an immediate rematch with Bradley based on what they believe were the two missed knockdowns early in the bout.
Regardless, moving forward, expect Provodnikov to make much more than the $150,000 he earned (according to the California commission report) for facing Bradley. “He can fight anybody in the world, definitely. I like his punching power at 147 a little better than ‘40,” said Roach. “He’s got better legs; he’s a lot more durable and the thing is, any ‘40,‘47-pounder in the world, we’re ready for. But he needs a little bit of a rest. I think he needs about six months off.”
Provodnikov says, “I want to get in the ring sooner than later. Obviously, I need a little rest but I’m ready to fight soon. As soon as I can.”
Kornilov says that with the buzz created with this fight, Provodnikov will not be going back home as originally planned. In the next few days, they will try and fulfill as many media requests as possible from the domestic and international media and will attend the rematch between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado on March 30th in Las Vegas.
(According to Bradley’s wife, Monica, her husband is doing fine after going to the hospital immediately after the fight on Saturday night and is also going to that event next week.)
It’s a brand new world for Provodnikov.
“My feeling today is I didn’t even have the fights before this one,” he said philosophically. “This is like the beginning, when people saw me. It’s like my first fight.”
With the changing landscape at HBO, which does not include Golden Boy for the time being (http://www.maxboxing.com/news/sub-lead/a-golden-divorce-), how does this affect the likes of Banner Promotions (which handles fighters like Provodnikov), who can at least hypothetically face boxers from both Top Rank and Golden Boy and isn’t caught up in any “Cold Wars”?
“I think what’s going on now is good for a lot of guys who have fighters like I do,” said Pelullo. “I think a Demetrius Andrade now becomes a player, which he should’ve been on HBO. I think [Juan Carlos] Burgos is back on the network and with the divorce between Golden Boy and HBO, it actually says that HBO now needs to do what they should’ve been doing and dealing with everybody. Everybody has got somebody. Everybody either has a B-side or an A-side, a co-feature, the main event. Now, what they have to do is really go out there and do what they should’ve been doing and finding talent from all the different promoters from around the country.”
This past weekend’s fight was not only surprising in the way it played out but the ratings themselves. HBO had 1.2 million viewers (well above expectations given such events at the final Big East tournament were taking place as well as the negativity toward Bradley and this fight coming in). With how well this fight has been received by the public, HBO added another replay of Bradley-Provodnikov for this upcoming Sunday night (10:35 p.m., ET/PT).
But I think this is further proof on just how influential and powerful social media platforms such as Twitter are today in terms of programming. Because just minutes before the first bell on HBO’s main event, it was being derided as a “Friday Night Fights”-caliber show on Twitter. And after the first two rounds where Provodnikov got off to a blazing start, suddenly Twitter was alive with “OMG!!! What a fight on HBO!!!” Quickly the word spread and suddenly, you had an audience watching this card.
Check out any big fight weekend (whether it’s boxing or MMA) and invariably, you’ll see the participants are always trending topics.
In fact, as a boxing fan/writer, I almost can’t watch boxing nowadays unless I have access to Twitter. There’s no doubt in my mind that it has enhanced the viewing experience of the sport and helped create a newer generation of fans (also, it’s a great place to crack on really bad fights as they take place).
On Tuesday, Showtime announced its programming schedule which will revolve around their May 4th pay-per-view card featuring Floyd Mayweather vs. Robert Guerrero. Here’s what the network announced:
NEW YORK (March 19, 2013)—SHOWTIME Sports has scheduled more than 100 hours of diverse boxing and documentary programming across broadcast television, cable television, premium television, and digital portals in advance of the upcoming SHOWTIME PPV presentation of MAY DAY—the mega-event headlined by boxing’s No. 1 pound-for-pound titlist Floyd “Money” Mayweather’s welterweight world championship defense against Four-Division World Champion Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, Saturday, May 4 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The lineup features more than 20 hours of live, edited and exclusive content targeted for a general sports audience as well as the core boxing fans and includes two documentary films, a five-part documentary series, a 30-minute countdown show, two live SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® events and live coverage from multiple fight week events, all before the first bell of MAY DAY: Mayweather vs. Guerrero pay-per-view special.
SHOWTIME Sports has tapped renowned television executive Ross Greenburg, recipient of more than 50 Sports Emmy® Awards in his distinguished career, to serve as executive producer on two key pieces of programming. Working with SHOWTIME for the first time, Greenburg is uniquely qualified to guide the editorial on Mayweather, having executive produced multiple documentary series on the fighter since 2007.
In addition to its “All Access” series, Showtime will also feature “30 Days in May,” a one-hour program focused on Mayweather’s incarceration last year. No word if Michael Eric Dyson will be lobbing him softballs for that one.
And yeah, Ross Greenburg is now working for Showtime/Golden Boy (you can insert your own punchline).
Less than 2,300 tickets remained available for the Saul Alvarez vs. Austin Trout showdown at the Alamodome on April 20th. It seems as though they scaled the house too small for this one (30,000). It looks like they could’ve gone as high as 40-grand...And yes, I’m going to Alvarez-Trout. I love big events like this and I can’t wait to see the basement of the Alamo...Between April 20th, April 27th and May 4th, Golden Boy expects to sell between 50-60,000 tickets...I’m told that on June 8th, HBO is kicking around the idea of a split-site doubleheader featuring Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Juan Carlos Burgos and Chad Dawson against Adonis Stevenson. This means on that date, you’ll have cards on both HBO and Showtime (which has a very entertaining tripleheader scheduled at the Home Depot Center, headlined by Marcos Maidana vs. Josesito Lopez)...It was announced that the May 25th bout between Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal will take place at the Bell Centre in Montreal and not Olympic Stadium. Warren Cromartie, Ellis Valentine and Andre Dawson are outraged...Banner Promotions has announced the signing of 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Taras Shelestyuk...Roy Englebrecht says that less than a 100 tickets for the April 11th edition of “Fight Club OC” remain available...There was an interesting segment of HBO’s “Real Sports” on Mike Tyson...Seriously, CBS’ “Rules of Engagement” is a vastly underrated sitcom...With the departure of Ed Reed, I guess it really is Joe Flacco’s team now. The only thing left there is him, Ray Rice and crab cakes...Say it ain’t so; Too Short arrested?!…
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