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Provodnikov Says He is Open to Matthysse Showdown

(Photo © German Villasenor)
(Photo © German Villasenor)


 

From the very jaded to the newly indoctrinated, nothing excites a boxing spectator more than a brutal knockout. There’s palpable electricity surrounding a pure puncher like Lucas Matthysse. In the wake of a performance such as his recent brutal domination of Lamont Peterson, it’s hard to imagine anyone beating him at 140 pounds…well, at least no one in the Golden Boy Promotions/Al Haymon stable. While Danny Garcia is a recognized 140-pound titleholder, almost no boxing expert is picking him to beat the Argentinean boxer-puncher, should they actually fight on September 7 in D.C. No one at 147 pounds except Floyd Mayweather seems a terribly credible threat either. While we assume that no one within the promotional rival Top Rank will ever get a crack at Matthysse, one particularly dangerous fighter falls outside the battle lines of boxing’s promotional war: Ruslan Provodnikov.

 

 

 

Refreshed from his coming-out party and close decision loss to WBO welterweight title Tim Bradley, Provodnikov spoke to this writer and co-host of the Leave It in the Ring radio show David Duenez from Russia to discuss the 140-pound picture and his place in it.

 

 

 

As pointed out by his manager and translator, Vadim Kornilov, Provodnikov is in a rare yet perfect position. Had his fighter beaten Bradley back in March, they would have been bound contractually to rematch Bradley and fight under the Top Rank banner for a few fights. Instead, Provodnikov nearly knocked Bradley out, put him down late and won the fight in the hearts of boxing fans. In one night, Provodnikov went from what some unknowledgeable boxing pundits deemed an “ESPN-level fighter” to a legitimate threat from 140 to 147.

 


“We’re 100% with Banner Promotions and we’re open to fighting anyone with Top Rank or Golden Boy. We’re open to fighting whomever,” stated Kornilov.
 
The last time we saw Ruslan Provodnikov, he was badly bruised and swollen from the long battle with Bradley at the Home Depot Center. Two months removed from the fight, Provodnikov is ready to get back to work.
 
“I feel 100% great actually. I am waiting for the time to come sooner rather than later for my next fight. I am waiting for the next date so I can start training,” he said.
 
Before his last fight, Provodnikov began a mini-camp in Russia, preparing for his move to 147 from 140. Provodnikov said he always stays in a range where he can drop down to 140, also adding to his in-between fights regimen.
 
“I am not training fully right now but always in between my fights, in between my training, I do a lot of stretching and a lot of swimming,” said Provodnikov. “But this time, I am adding a lot of different exercises that my strength-and-conditioning coach, Gavin MacMillan brought me. He told me to keep doing them in between fights. So I am doing a lot of different leg exercises and stuff like that to be ready to start training whenever I have to.”
 
Provodnikov has a fighter’s mentality. “That guy is the best? I need to fight him,” is how he approaches who he should face next. Though he knows little of Matthysse, what he does know is he is considered the baddest man near Ruslan’s weight. The path is clear to him.
 
“I’ve only watched his last fight. I know he has fought some good opposition. A lot of people said I wouldn’t stand two rounds with Bradley and we all saw what happened. Styles make fights. That’s what’s important. You never know what would happen between me and Matthysse. They say he is the next big star, then I think he should fight someone like me. He shouldn’t fight other opponent [-level fighters] right now. He beat Peterson, who is a good fighter. Now he should move on to bigger fights. I don’t think he will go fight guys that are less than Peterson. He should fight guys who are greater than Peterson. Peterson lost to Bradley. I had an awesome fight with Bradley. I think we should be in the mix,” said Provodnikov.
 
Peterson felt Matthysse’s power early. Even before he did, he altered his style from a grind-it-out-on-the-inside, pressure style to more of a hit-and-run variety. It didn’t work out or last long. Provodnikov likely wouldn’t approach him that way.
 
“I’m not afraid of him or his punch. I don’t think it’s a problem for me. I understand a boxer’s style would be better for him just like they thought a boxer’s style would be better for someone to beat me as well but you saw what happened with Bradley,” said Provodnikov. “But for Lucas Matthysse to get a boxer-style opponent, I don’t think it would be an interesting fight. If he fought me, it would be an interesting fight because we would go toe to toe and that would be the question: Whose chin could take the punch? Because I know he wouldn’t be afraid of my punches as well.”
 
Provodnikov is the type to give a prediction on a fight not even made, sure the fight would be all action. To him, the whole point is to make exciting fights. For a guy considered easy pickings before the Bradley fight, he sounds like he is having trouble securing someone willing to prove it.
 
“As far as the outcome, you never know. I don’t like to make predictions,” Provodnikov said. “You never know with styles and how they’re going to mesh. I know a lot of guys that my promoter has been talking to they don’t want to fight me anymore. Just because something happened with Bradley doesn’t mean it is going to happen in the next fight. I know I am going to be exciting. I know I am going to go toe to toe with whomever I fight. I know I am never going to say no. Look at what a lot of these promoters are doing. They just keep fighting their guys against each other over and over again. I am ready to fight any of these guys. It doesn’t matter who they are promoted by. I just want to make exciting fights.”
 
Looking back at the Bradley fight, Provodnikov was never hungrier. It will be interesting to see if he can reach that mental mountaintop again. The experience, much like his breakthrough opportunity working with Manny Pacquiao for his fight with Tim Bradley, seems to be simply more fuel for Ruslan.
 
“You are right. I was very hungry in that fight. I really wanted that title bad and maybe that’s why I didn’t get it because I wanted it too bad. I was lunging forward trying to knock [Bradley] out as much as I could instead of maybe being more careful,” he admitted. “But my confidence is much higher now after sparring with Manny and this fight. I learned for myself that I can fight anybody at the top level but my hunger got more. It got worse. That title was right there. I almost had it. I almost got it. Now I have to find another fighter who will fight. I have to find another champion who will fight me. I’ve heard [Mike] Alvarado. I heard HBO was interested in that fight. I’ve heard he wasn’t interested in the fight. I’ve heard other fighters are not interested in fighting me. My promoter is having a tough time getting someone to fight me. But my hunger is even greater because I almost had it and now I know I have to get it. I’ve got to become a world champion and I am ready to fight the best and biggest stars.”
 
After an instant classic like Bradley vs. Provodnikov, you’d think a rematch would be in order. However, Bradley got out of a tough, close fight with his belt and hide intact. He is now putting together the finishing touches on a fight with Juan Manuel Marquez in October. To Kornilov, that fight makes sense on a couple of levels.
 
“I don’t think Bradley really wanted the fight that bad,” said Kornilov. “Even if the financials were the same as fighting Marquez, I think Bradley would pick Marquez because Ruslan put him in the worst position even the ring. So why would he? [If I were Bradley’s manager], I wouldn’t recommend my fighter to take the fight again. I personally think [the rematch] will happen but the fact that Marquez really wanted to fight Bradley in order to get this title at 147, it caused for all this to happen. There wasn’t an offer made. We were talking about a rematch but obviously [Bradley vs. Marquez] got more attention. But I still think Bradley would have chosen Marquez.”
 
Kornilov explained the plan for Provodnikov most recently was to make a match with Mike Alvarado but that seems to fading away. In any case, Provodnikov hopes to be back for a fall fight.
 
“The feedback I am getting from HBO is we are considering bringing [Provodnikov] back so we are not looking at too many other options. But there are other options because there are other networks,” Kornilov explained. “But we got the chance on HBO and so we want the chance to continue our career on the network because that’s probably the right thing to do, the loyal thing to do. I know the Alvarado fight is being pushed very hard but I don’t know if the fight is going to happen because I hear Top Rank and Alvarado are not doing anything to move the fight forward. At least that’s what I was told. If that doesn’t happen, I think there are other options on HBO [in September or October]. We don’t have to get the world title shot in the next fight. He can fight and look good and get a big fight in the near future.”
 
As for Matthysse, Provodnikov made it very clear he wants a piece of him. Who knows if Golden Boy will go outside of its stable or Haymon’s to do battle with a dangerous fighter like Provodnikov. The possibility of such a fight is certainly tantalizing.
 
“Lucas Matthysse is a great fighter and he showed it in his fight with Peterson but I said it before; I am ready to fight anybody,” said Provodnikov. “It doesn’t matter, any of the big fighters because I know I will be exciting in the big fights. I’ll say ‘Yes’ even before the fight [terms are given.] That’s what happened with Bradley. I said ‘Yes’ even before I knew the terms. They say Lucas Matthysse is the next Manny Pacquiao. Well, then I should fight him because it would be a great fight for the fans. That’s what’s important.”
 
You can email Gabriel at maxgmontoya@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gabriel_montoya and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show Leave-It-In-The-Ring.com, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PST.
 
 

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