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Mile High Thumping

(Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)
(Photo © Chris Farina / Top Rank)

Going into Saturday night at the 1STBANK Center near Denver, Colorado, the equation was simple: Ruslan Provodnikov + Mike Alvarado = one helluva fight.
And that’s precisely what took place between these two world-class junior welterweights who are perennially involved in “Fight of the Year” candidates. But it was Provodnikov with his consistent thumping and heavy-handedness who simply wore down and wore out Alvarado. Not only had the Russian scaled “Mile High” Mike, he also toppled him.
At the end of the 10th frame, Alvarado made the intelligent decision to pull himself from the fray. It simply wasn’t going to get any better for the native of Denver, who was bruised, battered and eventually beaten into submission. Here, discretion was the better part of valor.

Provodnikov doesn’t so much knock you out but he gives out concussions on a consistent basis. Tim Bradley, his last foe, couldn’t remember large parts of their encounter back in March and only recalls a couple of rounds of their 12-round slugfest. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Alvarado makes the decision not to look back on this punishing night.
The first half of this fight was fought on even terms with Provodnikov pressuring and banging away to the head and body with equal efficiency while Alvarado had success at times by utilizing lateral movement and boxing from the outside. But as the night wore on, the air space between the two began to close and it was then when Provodnikov - nicknamed the “Siberian Rocky” for his hard-charging style - began to take over this fight.
Late in the seventh frame, he hurt Alvarado and then began caving him in the eighth, scoring two knockdowns. Despite his penchant in the past for getting into entertaining dust-ups, Alvarado had never tasted the canvas before. That said, he had never faced such a steady and vicious barrage like he had on this night. Despite the exhortations of over 7,000 of his fans inside the sold-out arena, it became the worst homecoming since “Carrie.” This was the beginning of the end.
“I just needed to stay calm. Mike Alvarado is a real man. A real world champion,” said Provodnikov, who became the new WBO junior welterweight champion with the win. After a stay of execution in the ninth, the 10th saw Alvarado - whose left eye had swollen noticeably - in survival mode but unable to hold off Provodnikov, who showed once again that he has one of the strongest finishing kicks in all of boxing. You might be able to outpoint Provodnikov for half a fight but he’s yet to ever lose its second half.
After getting bludgeoned again at the end of the 10th, Alvarado trudged back to the wrong corner. As he was being examined by referee Tony Weeks, he capitulated in the corner. “It wasn’t worth taking more damage to my body,” said Alvarado, whose record dropped to 34-2 (23). “He hit me with almost everything. I don’t know which one really hurt me.”
No matter what Alvarado was going to do on this night, Provodnikov was simply willing to put himself through a bit more to achieve his dreams. After coming excruciatingly close to defeating Bradley, this was a man who would not be denied.
Provodnikov stated afterward, “To become a world champion, you need to take risks. I did that by coming into [Alvarado]’s hometown. I made him not want to fight me anymore and that’s the best outcome I could think of. This is the best dream. I’m a world champion like [Sugar] Ray Leonard and all the greats.”
This soft-spoken, hard-hitting right-hander may not necessarily be a great fighter but he’s a guy who’s consistently in great scraps. It was appropriate that this contest was paired with the premiere of “Legendary Nights” for the rivalry between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward and that a fighter like Provodnikov shone so brightly. You would hope his days of being derided as being nothing more than a “Friday Night Fights”-caliber prizefighter (as if being on this platform and actually learning one’s craft is a bad thing) are over.
“I think he did that with Bradley but definitely tonight,” said a jubilant, Artie Pelullo, whose company, Banner Promotions, has overseen his development as a fighter. “Listen, I had his first four-rounder and I’ve seen him grow and he’s wanted to grow. He’s wanted to get better; he’s learned to do things he’s had to. He’s got better trainers; he went from Buddy McGirt to Freddie Roach. He listens to what he’s told; he lives the right life and he actually sees that there’s something at the end of the tunnel.”

Between 140 and 147 pounds, Provodnikov is now a player, one who cannot be ignored when discussing the biggest and best fights out there. Throw any name out there; pair it with Provodnikov and it’s a fight most fans would yearn for. He is now “must-see TV.”

Provodnikov has arrived. And he may not be going anywhere for awhile.


While Freddie Roach was not in Provodnikov’s corner this weekend, his presence was genuinely felt. From the training session I saw between Provodnikov and Roach at the Wild Card Boxing Club, there were two main focuses: first was throwing shorter, more compact punches. Roach felt Alvarado was a bit wide with his shots and that it was imperative his charge stay inside the arc of his punches when exchanging.

And they really worked on pivoting off Alvarado’s left side and throwing left hooks when he pulled back. That tactic seemed to be more effective as the night went on.

But it’s clear; Roach hasn’t forgotten everything about training fighters or preparing them for battle. After a rough 2012, he has had a very good 2013.



I had an eventful travel day on Sunday. First I missed my nonstop flight from Denver back to Los Angeles (somehow I misread my itinerary and arrived late) so I was rebooked on a flight to Las Vegas, then given the option of going on standby for the final leg of the journey.

So I land in Las Vegas and I get something to eat. Then as I sit down at gate C7, I see none other than “Iron” Mike Tyson sitting down waiting for the same flight that took off at around 1:15. I thought the chances of me getting on this flight were slim-to-none (Sundays are the worst days to miss a flight back to L.A.), so I said to myself, “Ah, what the hell. I might as well get something out of this,” and walked over to Mike, who was hidden behind the Southwest partition.

I introduce myself and - get this - I dropped the name of our very own Gabriel Montoya, who recently did this story on Tyson (/mike-tyson-vs-usa-boxing---exclusive-to-maxboxing) and he immediately opened up and we chatted for a bit (so yeah, if you’re ever around Tyson, bring out the Montoya card). After about 10 minutes, I thanked him for his time and went back to my seat with the realization I might be stuck in this airport for much of the day.

Mike Tyson poses with Fan at airport.
No, this Asian guy isn’t me, but Tyson took a few of these as we landed.
(Photo © K9 Photos)

A few minutes later, Tyson actually calls me back over and asks me a few more questions. This guy really likes to talk about boxing and he really loves to laugh. He really does seem to be in a good place right now. As time went on, more and more people began to realize the former heavyweight champion of the world was at this gate and you could feel the eyeballs gaze upon him. He was gracious to those who came over and asked to take a picture.

I feel as though I won the lottery when I was told I was added onto this flight and as I get on the plane, take the quick right turn toward the aisle, there’s Tyson with his friend, Rick (both on their way to pay a short visit to WBC President Jose Sulaiman) looking right at me. Tyson goes, “Hey, right here; we got you!” They had actually saved the middle seat for me. “We didn’t know if you were going to make it,” he said, laughing. The rest of the passengers seemed very amused by this.

On the flight, we talked some more boxing: about how Roberto Duran’s first effort against Sugar Ray Leonard was the inspiration for him wanting to become a boxer, how he actually carried the bucket into the ring and worked the corner when Edwin Rosario faced Julio Cesar Chavez in 1987 (“Hey, man, I’d do anything for a fighter. I wasn’t too good for that.”) and his admiration for Alexis Arguello.

As the plane landed and we walked through LAX, people certainly weren’t shy about greeting Tyson or asking to take a picture. This guy is still incredibly popular and iconic. I don’t think that will ever change. We shook hands and said our goodbyes as he went toward the restroom and I went to baggage claim.

But seriously, what was more unlikely: Tyson actually flying Southwest or that I was able to get on as a standby on a Sunday afternoon back to Los Angeles?



Here’s the ticket info for the card at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, Texas, which has Devon Alexander defending his IBF welterweight title against Shawn Porter and WBC junior featherweight beltholder Leo Santa Cruz facing Cesar Seda:

Tickets priced at $175, $150, $45, $25 and $15, plus applicable taxes, fees and services charges, go on sale on Monday, Oct. 21 at 10 a.m. CT and are available for purchase at the AT&T Center box office (walk up sales only), or through Leija*Battah Promotions by calling (210) 979-3302 or emailing or online at and all Ticketmaster locations, by calling (800) 745-3000.



Here’s the latest episode of “The Next Round” featuring Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly:




Pelullo didn’t want to comment on a rematch clause for Provodnikov-Alvarado but he did state that Top Rank has an option on the Russian for one fight...Over 7,000 fans showed up to this fight and “standing room only” tickets were being sold the night of the event...Denver is a great sports city. I hope they host more big boxing events in the future. But will they involve Alvarado? And who’s the next Alvarado?...While Miami got lucky, admittedly, in defeating the Tar Heels, it was another big day for them at the polls with top 10 teams going down in defeat...Right now, Florida State might be the best team in the country...Is there any question that when it comes to punt returning, Devin Hester is the GOAT?...R.I.P. to Don James...



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