By John J. Raspanti
When they met in the center of the ring fifty-seven-years ago, Gene Fullmer and Carmen Basillo attacked each other like there was no tomorrow.
For them, there wasn’t. Every fight was about life and death. Losing wasn’t an option.
Ruslan Provodnikov, and John Molina Jr., who collide June 11 at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y, are cut from the same hardscrabble cloth. They only know one way to fight.
Provodnikov, 32, captured the WBO junior welterweight title in 2013 by outlasting favored Mike Alvarado. But it was in defeat that he won the heart and soul of most boxing fans. Provodinkov (25-4, 18 KOs) took Timothy Bradley to boxing hell over 12 give-and-take-rounds. The then-undefeated Bradley took a knee in the last round, but was still judged the winner by a few points on the scorecards.
Battered but unbowed, Provodikov, looked like something out of a monster movie. He had cuts and swelling under both eyes, and a lump on his chin. No matter, he thought he had done enough to defeat Bradley.
Seven months later, he stopped Alvareado to become a world champion.
Molina Jr., 33, has never met a fight he didn’t like.
He delighted boxing fans a few years ago with come-from-behind knock out victories over highly-ranked Hank Lundy, and Floyd Mayweather protégé, Mickey Bey. Molina Jr. has also captured two linear titles during his 10-year professional career.
Molina Jr. (28-6, 23 KOs) cemented his standing as a pugilistic tough guy on April 26, 2014. He engaged in a knock-down, drag-out brawl with Lucas Matthysse that had boxing fans in attendance and watching at home yelling themselves horse.
The battle was intense from the opening bell. Molina Jr. won the first round with aggression—and the second with a knockdown. Matthysse battled back, but in Round five, Molina Jr. floored him again. Matthysse was rocked a few minutes later, but scored a knock-down of his own in Round seven.
The war waged on. Molina Jr. still had the power to hurt Matthysse, but the hard-hitting Argentinian was strafing Molina Jr. face with multiple shots. Finally, Round 10, a combination of blows put Molina Jr. down. The exhausted warrior survived to the bell.
A round later, the bout was over, with Matthysse declared the winner.
The hostilities had lasted a little over thirty minutes. It was dramatic, brutal, and suspenseful.
Provodnikov’s war of attrition with Bradley was judged “The Fight of the Year” in 2013. A year later, Molina Jr’s match with Matthysee was likewise honored.
Now the two participants are set to face each other in a few days.
Provodnikov was last seen in the ring dispatching Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez seven months ago, while Molina Jr. snapped a three-fight losing streak by knocking out game Jorge Romero.
Both boxers need an impressive victory to insure their relevancy. Provodikov has a pretty good idea what to expect when he gets in the ring with Molina Jr.
“No doubt he’s a fighter, he’s a warrior,” said Provodnikov a few days ago during media day. “For somebody to defeat me is a big motivation and I know he’ll be coming to win.”
Provodnikov anticipates Molina Jr. will be intense and aggressive on fight night.
"No matter what, he’s going to do anything possible to win this fight,” Provdnikov said. “That’s what I expect from people that take a fight with me - that they’ll die in the ring to defeat me because it would be a great accomplishment. So I’m expecting a real war, a real fight."
Molina Jr. can’t wait to match punches with Provodnikov.
"I am really excited,” said Molina Jr. “Ruslan is a hell of a fighter and competitor. I think it’s a can’t-miss, all-action fight when you have someone like myself and Ruslan in there.”
Provodnikov doesn’t have much use for fighters who stay away and box. Like Molina Jr., he wants action.
“I definitely like the guys that come to fight,” Provodnikov said. “For me that is a better, more enjoyable fight. I like to fight a guy that wants to brawl.”
Though both boxers are only 3-3 in their last six fights, the much shorter Provodnikov is slightly favored to defeat Molina Jr.
The bout is being billed as a potential "Fight of the Year" candidate.
The boxers will likely go toe-to-toe throughout their match.
Fullmer and Basillo would have approved.
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