Ruslan Provodnikov vs. Chris Algieri: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

Briggs SeekinsFeatured ColumnistJune 8, 2014

Ruslan Provodnikov vs. Chris Algieri: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

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    Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, WBO light welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov defends his belt against undefeated contender Chris Algieri. Provodnikov was one of the biggest breakout stars of 2013, and fans have been anxious to see him back in action this year. 

    Provodnikov is a powerful and ferocious brawler who added improved technique in his climb to the top last year. Algieri is a former undefeated world champion in kickboxing who has thrived so far since switching sports. 

    Something will have to give this Saturday night in Brooklyn. 

Tale of the Tape

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    Per Boxrec     Ruslan Provodnikov     Chris Algieri
    Record:     23-2, 16 KOs     19-0, 8 KOs
    Height:     5'6"     5'10"
    Reach:     66"     72"
    Weight:     140 lbs     140 lbs
    Age:     30     30
    Stance:     Orthodox     Orthodox
    Hometown:     Beryozovo, Russia     Hunington, N.Y.
    Rounds:     136     110

    This fight is a total clash of body types, as Algieri is about as tall and long as they come at junior welterweight, while Provodnikov is extremely powerful and compact. This should force some stylistic battles that make for an interesting tactical bout. 

    Algieri is a Long Islander and will no doubt have plenty of friends and family in the crowd Saturday. But Provodnikov is an emerging, all-action star. He'll have plenty of fan support in Brooklyn. 

Main Storylines

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    Ruslan Provodnikov is a hard man from a hard place. "The Siberian Rocky" comes from a region that has been associated with rugged and extreme hardship for centuries. It adds to his mystique and clearly contributed to forging his iron will.

    Entering 2013 Provodnikov was on the radar for serious fans but had yet to firmly establish himself. That changed quickly, as he battled Timothy Bradley in a Fight of the Year war in March, nearly stopping the WBO welterweight champion in both of the first two rounds and almost finishing him off in Round 12. 

    Provodnikov lost the fight, but the bounce to his reputation was extremely valuable anyway. In October he faced off with tough Mike Alvarado for the WBO light welterweight title. He brutalized Alvarado and stopped him in Round 10 to take the belt. 

    Chris Algieri was an undefeated world champion in kickboxing before switching to boxing. So far he's won 19 straight fights, mostly against trial horses and relatively obscure journeymen. His single win over a fellow rising contender came last year against 17-1 Emmanuel Taylor on Friday Night Fights.

Strengths

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    Ruslan Provodnikov is a relentless pressure fighter. He is extremely strong and breaks opponents down with thudding shots from both hands. 

    He punishes an opponent's body and threatens upstairs with looping right hands and buzz-saw left hooks. Under Freddie Roach's guidance, he's developed into a smarter tactical fighter.

    But physical power and mental intensity remain his biggest strengths.

    Chris Algieri has great reach and a quick, zinging jab. He doubles up extremely well with his left hook, working to the body and the head. 

    He has good head movement and skillful footwork. He's still fairly new at boxing, but his 20 pro fights in kickboxing show up in his ability to gauge and control distance. 

Weaknesses

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    Ruslan Provodnikov fights in one direction: coming forward. A good boxer who can keep turning him causes him problems. In his first career loss against Mauricio Herrera, he fell into a bad habit of following Herrera for much of the fight instead of cutting off the ring. 

    Despite the brutal punishment he inflicted on Timothy Bradley, Bradley was able to control huge sections of the fight with boxing. Provodnikov is a very hittable fighter. 

    Chris Algieri tends to give up his height by lunging forward into range. Height and length are his biggest advantages against Provodnikov, and he could get busted up in a hurry if he lunges into range. 

    Against Emmanuel Taylor, Algieri dropped his right hand when throwing the left hook. An even bigger problem is the way he camps out behind his guard, leaving his long torso exposed and allowing an aggressive opponent like Provodnikov the space to seize the initiative and crowd him. 

Ruslan Provodnikov Will Win If...

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    Ruslan Provodnikov is giving up six inches of reach to Chris Algieri. That shouldn't be a barrier to him winning the fight, but it is a tactical problem to solve.

    Provodnikov has to avoid falling into a pattern of simply pursuing Algieri. He has to cut the taller fighter off and then close range. 

    He needs to use lateral movement to keep Algieri in front of him. When Algieri pumps the jab, Provodnikov should come in at an angle, jabbing low and then coming over the top with a big right hand. 

    Algieri has a habit of pulling his guard up tight and leaving his torso exposed. Provodnikov needs to put in work downstairs during this fight. 

    Of course, Provodnikov pounding the body is as much of a sure thing as Big Ben striking midnight once per day. 

Chris Algieri Will Win If...

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    The game plan for Chris Algieri in this fight is simple, though it will hardly be easy. He has to use his jab and footwork to exploit his length advantage and keep Ruslan Provodnikov at the end of his punches. 

    He has to keep Provodnikov turning and resetting. The double lead hook to the body and head should be a good weapon for Algieri in this fight, but he better keep the right hand up high, guarding his chin. Provodnikov will gladly take two to get into range to pop Algieri on his exposed chin.

    Algieri also needs to vary the direction he circles while on the outside. Against Emmanuel Taylor he fell into a pattern of moving almost exclusively to his right. Provodnikov will cut him off and hammer his ribs for certain if he does that on Saturday.  

Prediction

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    It's hard not to view this as a stay-busy fight for Ruslan Provodnikov. He tried to call out Juan Manuel Marquez earlier this year, but the Mexican legend seemed to want no part of him and fought Mike Alvarado instead. 

    Chris Algieri was a ranked contender who was available. He's not without talent, and Provodnikov needs to come prepared to fight. But a fighter who grew up in Siberia is unlikely to take anything for granted. 

    His ability to cut off the ring and force the fight at his range was clearly improved during his 2013 campaign. Wild Card is a gym that excels at training a fighter to maximize his physical advantages stylistically. Provodnikov will always be a rugged, pressure fighter, but under Freddie Roach he is developing into a more intelligent pressure fighter. 

    Algieri has great length and good movement, but I don't think he has the pop to discourage Provodnikov's advance. The defensive holes he showed against Emmanuel Taylor will get him brutalized against Provodnikov.

    Expect him to hurt Algieri early and break him down headed into the middle rounds. I'm picking the Siberian Rocky by Round 7 TKO. 

    There should be a bigger-name opponent available for Provodnikov in his next fight. The dream matchup is Danny Garcia, so fans can see for sure who is the true champion at 140 pounds. But given the promotional friction that exists between Golden Boy and Top Rank, it's almost certainly not going to happen. 

    Instead, look for Provodnikov to face Brandon Rios sometime in the fall. It will be a thriller for as long as it lasts.