Ruslan Provodnikov has made a name for himself as one of the best up-and-coming and most exciting boxers in the sport, and his next test will come Saturday night against Chris Algieri at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
With a sterling 23-2 record that includes 16 knockouts, the 30-year-old WBO light welterweight champion heads into Saturday's fight as the massive favorite, according to Odds Shark. But his opponent is no joke, as Algieri comes in with a perfect 19-0 record.
Algieri also could have the crowd on his side, as the Huntington, New York, native is fighting in his home state. However, Provodnikov earned himself a large following in the States in 2013 after a tight victory over Timothy Bradley and later winning the title against Mike Alvarado.
Let's break down the specifics of the upcoming fight and take a closer look into the matchup.
When: Saturday, June 14 at 10 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
Odds: Provodnikov -640, Algieri +527 (per Odds Shark)
In a sport dominated so much by the top few boxers in every weight class, Provodnikov has entered that category by making a name for himself in recent years as one of the world's best.
The Siberian Rocky has been around awhile but just started to take off in 2013 after his fight with Timothy Bradley, which The Ring Magazine dubbed as the fight of the year. That fight would have given him the welterweight title, but he didn't budge after the close defeat, beating Mike Alvarado in the 10th round to take the light welterweight belt in his next fight.
In his first attempt at a title defense, he'll fight Algieri on Saturday night. But he's not approaching it like he's defending anything, per ESPN.com's Dan Rafael:
"If I have to die in the ring to win, that is what I will do," Provodnikov said through interpreter and manager Vadim Kornilov. "Is Algieri willing to do the same? He had better or he will not defeat me."
"Despite winning the title, I still feel like a challenger and I train like one," Provodnikov said. "The only thing that has changed for me now that I am a world champion is that I now have more responsibilities, like interviews and appearances."
This is the mentality that makes Provodnikov not just one of the world's best boxers but one of the most exciting fighters to watch as well. He enters the ring every time like it's his last and doesn't take any opponent for granted.
That will come in handy in this fight. In somewhat of a rarity for Provodnikov, compared to recent years, he's such a heavy favorite that the question for many isn't whether he'll win but how quickly he'll send Algieri's face toward the canvas after one of his signature flurries.
Algieri doesn't come in with nearly the same quality of competition, but his undefeated record is something to fear for any fighter, even if he has no experience against a boxer as good as Provodnikov.
He's just as aware of what lies on the other side but sees flaws in his opponent's style, per Los Angeles Times' Lance Pugmire:
“Ruslan is a great fighter, a pressure fighter,” Algieri said in a conference call. “He comes forward. He's super tough, very durable. ... Just based on past fights, there is a weakness with dealing with a jab and a boxer and movement. Those are the things that we've been trying to work most on. Ruslan is going to press the action. I'm going to have to stand and fight at times.”
Algieri isn't the first boxer to head into a bout thinking he can frustrate the Siberian Rocky with his counter-jabs and swift movement. But other than Bradley, who just barely had enough to earn the decision in his fight, no fighter has been able to top Provodnikov in the ring since 2011.
However, as told by countless results in the past, anything can happen in boxing. Although few boxers are of Bradley's caliber, he showed the blueprint for beating Provodnikov, even if it includes getting beaten to a pulp in order to top him.
Prediction: Provodnikov TKO in Round 9
Algieri is entering the biggest fight of his career by a wide margin, and fighters have a way of coming out inspired in these sorts of bouts when they have virtually nothing to lose.
But the talent gap is appalling, and it points directly in the favor of the title-holder.
Provodnikov has shown some weaknesses over the years, but only ones that can be exposed by some of the world's best. Algieri may be undefeated, but he's nowhere near the prestige that competing with Provodnikov takes.
The Russian won't have too much trouble disposing of his challenger before things get to Round 12.