Mike Alvarado vs. Ruslan Provodnikov: Who Has Edge in Fight of Year Candidate?

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistAugust 2, 2013

Alvarado and Provodnikov will prepare for war.
Alvarado and Provodnikov will prepare for war.Josh Hedges/Getty Images

Both Mike Alvarado and Ruslan Provodnikov are used to action-packed fights. The two men separately stated their cases for Fight of the Year honors earlier this year when they participated in all-action wars against favored opponents. 

Now they'll get a chance to share the same ring on Oct. 19, and if the past is any indicator, boxing fans should be salivating. This fight has all the makings of absolute warfare and could be a Fight of the Year contender in its own right. 

If you listen to Mike Alvarado, you should prepare for a battle:

Alvarado is best known for his two fights with Brandon Rios. Their 2012 contest was considered by many to be the Fight of the Year and ended with Alvarado suffering his first defeat. 

But he avenged that loss earlier this year in a bout that, while not quite as good as the first, produced many moments of high drama. It proved that "Mile High" can be an entertaining fighter when he's matched with an opponent willing to meet fire with fire.

That's exactly what he'll get in Provodnikov.

The 29-year-old Russian established his credentials in a clash with WBO welterweight champion Timothy Bradley this past March. Provodnikov showed power and heart in losing a closer-than-expected unanimous decision.

He even floored "Desert Storm" in the 12th round and had the champ hanging on for dear life at the final bell.

That's something that Manny Pacquiao didn't do even once during his fight with Bradley last June.

So get ready for some fireworks because neither of these guys is going to back down. They will trade bombs from the opening bell, and it wouldn't be surprising to see this fight end before the final bell tolls. 

But who has the advantage going into what will certainly be a late contender for Fight of the Year? 

Alvarado is the bigger and more tested fighter. He's taller and possesses a nearly four-inch advantage in reach. He's known as the prototypical boxer-puncher, and he can fight comfortably in a boxing match or a slugfest.

But he's also older, and he's been stopped in the past by a fighter with a similar style to his opponent in October. That has to be on his mind when he enters training camp and develops his game plan for the fight. 

To his credit, he was able to completely change his approach in his rematch with Rios. Both he and his team realized that standing in a phone booth for three minutes every round and slugging made for exciting television, but it also cost him the fight the first time around.

He was hit far less often in the rematch, engaged less and darted in and out to land his power shots.

It was still exciting, though perhaps less so than the first fight. Nevertheless, Alvarado showed that he is more than a one-trick pony and can be an effective boxer as well as a slugger.

He'd probably be wise to apply that style against Provodnikov. 

Against Bradley, the Russian looked superb when he was able to goad his opponent into exchanges. It allowed him to exploit his superior power and hurt his opponent on several occasions. 

But when Bradley boxed effectively and controlled the distance, he was clearly the better fighter.

This exposed a huge flaw in Provodnikov's game and established the blueprint for how to defeat him. Nothing about that is meant to imply it will be easy, but the right fighter, fighting the right style, can keep the bout at a distance and neutralize the Russian's aggression.

The question for Alvarado is whether or not he's that type of fighter. He's proved in the past that he can be, but he'll be facing pressure against Provodnikov that he hasn't experienced before. 

This will force him to engage more than he did against Rios, and it will catapult this into the Fight of the Year discussion. But it also presents more risk.

The fight will be broadcast as the main event of an HBO televised event that will also feature the replay of the previous week's clash between Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez.

That alone makes it a prime-time spot for two fighters looking to emerge into the spotlight. 

But then add into the mix the current temperature of the boxing world.

For years, HBO was the undisputed cable television leader when it came to boxing. But with the recent departure of pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather and the entire Golden Boy Promotions stable of fighters to Showtime, the network is looking for new stars to sell fights.

Both Alvarado and Provodnikov have the styles that can attract people to the sport and help fill the void.

That means both guys will be under the gun to showcase not just their boxing skill but also their marketability. 

Add into the equation that Alvarado will be fighting in front of his hometown fans—this will be the first major professional boxing event in Colorado in 13 years—and you know he'll be looking to make a statement. 

Nothing makes a statement in boxing more than an impressive knockout, and that's what both guys will be looking for on Oct. 19. 

Both guys are tough as nails, and neither will back down. But Alvarado has more potential paths to victory. He can box when he needs to and can exchange with Provodnikov when he chooses.

It's hard to pick against the Russian's grit and determination, but unless he adds a new wrinkle to his game, I have to side with the local fighter.

Don't be surprised if there are knockdowns, lots of bruising and swelling, and even some blood. But at the end of the night, Alvarado will have his hand raised.

But there will be no losers—not Provodnikov and certainly not boxing fans.