Mike Alvarado vs. Ruslan Provodnikov: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight
Mike Alvarado vs. Ruslan Provodnikov has been talked about as an almost certain fight of the year contender from the minute it was signed, and it will finally happen this Saturday night. That's par for the course whenever you have two guys who are willing to go to war in each and every round and are willing to go out on their sword if necessary.
Alvarado will defend his interim (soon to be full) WBO Junior Welterweight Championship in the fight. He's no stranger to laying it all on the line in the ring. His two-fight series with Brandon Rios was full of action and brutality, and it's a testament to his will that he'd face such a tough foe in his next fight.
Provodnikov just loves to fight. He's willing to take a few to land his own shots, and he very nearly knocked out Timothy Bradley when they met for a welterweight title earlier this year. There's absolutely no quit in the Russian, and he'll be looking to make this fight into a slugfest.
Are you ready? Because we are! Here's your complete preview and prediction for Alvarado vs. Provodnikov!
Tale of the Tape
Mike Alvarado will carry a couple of physical advantages into his fight with Ruslan Provodnikov. He's a few inches taller and a few inches longer. That should play into his likely game plan, which will be to engage the Russian when necessary, but to focus on controlling that aggression with solid boxing.
This one should be an absolute barnburner, and Bob Arum (CEO of Top Rank who will promote the fight in conjunction with HBO) pulls no punches as to why you should tune-in. It has everything to do with the recently hot cable TV boxing wars between HBO and Showtime.
"There are no more appearance fights. The fights are competitive. The fights are hard fights. HBO pays the most money, and they expect their subscribers to get value," Arum told Bleacher Report on Monday.
"We all know about taking a very light fight after a tough fight. And you can still do that, but HBO isn't going to pay for it."
And that, in a nutshell, is how we've arrived at this fight.
34-1, 21 KO
22-2, 15 KO
140 (last fight)
146.5 (last fight)
*Profiles via BoxRec.
Mike Alvarado is showing what he's made of as a fighter. This will mark the fifth consecutive bout for "Mile High" Mike—Breidis Prescott, Mauricio Herrera and the two fights with Rios—that has been expected to be extremely physical.
We already know that the previous four lived up to that billing, and we can expect the same on Saturday. Most fighters would take a softer touch after emerging from that type of schedule, but not Alvarado. He has a warrior's spirt, and he expects the lessons of those fights to aid him in the ring on Saturday.
Ruslan Provodnikov will be looking to show that his fight against Timothy Bradley was no fluke. He had the welterweight champion back on his heels for much of the contest, and he seemed to hurt him every time the two traded punches.
You can make the case that he deserved to get the decision that night, but a lot of that had to do with Bradley's—foolish—decision to ditch boxing in favor of trading punches. That's the type of fight that Provodnikov will be looking for on Saturday, and it's his best chance to win.
Mike Alvarado is known primarily as a puncher, and he definitely likes to mix it up on the inside. He can do that with the best of them, but he also possesses highly underrated boxing skills. That makes him a dangerous boxer-puncher who has more than one viable path to winning a fight.
He has good power on his punches (23 knockouts in 34 victories) and has focused on improving his defense of late. He brought in veteran trainer Rudy Hernandez before the Rios rematch to work on his defense and outside fighting, and the two have rekindled their relationship in the lead-up to this bout.
Ruslan Provodnikov is as mentally tough a fighter as you'll find in the sport. He's a pure masher/slugger who likes to get in your face and unload heavy shots at medium-close range. He applies a tremendous amount of pressure—both physical and mental—on his opponent, and if he forces you into a mistake he can make you pay.
The Russian is gritty and determined. He loves to fight and won't be deterred if things don't immediately go his way. He understands that his style sometimes requires him to eat a lot of leather to land his own punches, and he seems to have little problem with that.
Mike Alvarado isn't always as defensively aware as he should be. His defensive isn't bad exactly, but he sometimes allows himself to get hit more than necessary. That was what plagued him in his first fight with Rios, and it was something that he worked on extensively for the rematch.
His defense was definitely improved when he faced Rios for the second time, and he was better at boxing from the outside and avoiding the big shots that cost him dearly the first time around. Standing in a phone booth and trading huge shots makes for entertaining television, and sometimes Alvarado gets drawn in by his desire to please. However, he'd be wise to limit his big exchanges in this fight.
Ruslan Provodnikov doesn't present much at all in terms of defense. He keeps his hands very low and relies almost exclusively on head movement in order to dodge punches. That's a pretty dangerous strategy and something that could cost him big against a boxer-puncher like Alvarado.
In the Bradley fight, Provodnikov was most successful when he goaded the champion into exchanges, but he was thoroughly outboxed for large segments of the fight. Now nobody is saying that Alvarado is nearly as skilled as Bradley in terms of pure boxing ability, but he definitely has more power. That could be a problem.
Mike Alvarado Will Win If...
Mike Alvarado knows a thing or two about boxing wars. He's had four in a row, and he feels that experience will help him deal with the type of pressure he'll see from Provodnikov on Saturday night.
"Being in those kind of fights only made me that much better as a fighter. They helped me a lot to adjust into a boxer," Alvarado told Bleacher Report on Monday.
"They can take a toll, they can catch up to you. It's only made me that much better to box and not have to throw myself in wars like that."
You can expect Alvarado to box more along the lines of his rematch with Brandon Rios than their first fight. That doesn't mean he won't exchange, but that he'll do it on his own terms and not be reckless.
"Provodnikov isn't used to fighting backwards. I know boxing skills will come in handy," Alvarado said.
"This fight is going to be very interesting. Boxing is definitely gonna be an option, but fighting will be a huge option as well."
And if it plays out how he described, Mike Alvarado will win. He'll need to box effectively to blunt Provodnikov's aggression, and make him pay with power shots of his own when he gets on the inside. The Russian isn't very defensively astute, and with Alvarado's boxer-puncher skills, he should be able to pick him apart.
Ruslan Provodnikov Will Win If...
Ruslan Provodnikov loves to fight, and he'll need to do exactly that in order to upset Mike Alvarado on Saturday night. You need only look at the Russian's fight with Timothy Bradley to see what does, and doesn't, work when he's in the ring.
Against Bradley, Provodnikov was most effective when the fight was in close quarters and the fighters were exchanging. But he looked lost when Bradley chose to box and deny him scoring chances. That would seem to be the blueprint for beating him, but he doesn't seem terribly worried about it in facing Alvarado.
"I think that Timothy Bradley and Mike Alvarado are two different fighters. Bradley is more of a boxer than Mike Alvarado is. I don't compare them as boxers. I compare them as two different style fighters," Provodnikov told Bleacher Report on Monday.
Provodnikov feels that facing Alvarado will present him with a stylistic advantage that he didn't have against Bradley, and that should play into his favor.
"I think Mike Alvarado might be more interesting than the Bradley fight because I think we're gonna have more of the moments where we're exchanging and fighting than I did with Bradley," Provodnikov said.
That's what he's gotta hope for if he wants to win. With Alvarado's power, a slugfest doesn't guarantee Provodnikov anything, but it does give him his best chance to win.
And the Winner Will Be...
Truth be told, if Mike Alvarado were a straight up brawler without solid boxing skills it would totally plausible to pick Ruslan Provodnikov in this fight. The Russian is tough, gutsy, has great power on his punches and places tremendous pressure on his opponent.
But Alvarado is more than a brawler. He has highly underrated boxing skills, and he'll enter the ring with a world of knowledge and experience on how to win just this type of fight.
Alvarado will fight smart, which is not to say he won't trade with Provodnikov, but that when he does, it'll be in times and places of his choosing. There will definitely be firefights—both guys are warriors—but they'll be skirmishes and not the full-blown wars that many are expecting.
Even so, it'll be a tremendous action fight, and there will be drama.
Expect lots of heavy punches, more than a few round of the year candidates, and probably a fair amount of blood and swelling.
Also expect "Mile High" Mike Alvarado to please his hometown crowd by winning a unanimous decision in the 116-112 score range.
Kevin McRae is a featured boxing columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.
You can follow him on Twitter.
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