On Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Chris Algieri (20-0, 8 KOs) became the new WBO junior welterweight champion when he dethroned Ruslan "The Siberian Rocky" Provodnikov (23-3, 16 KOs) with a gutsy and memorable performance.
Behind a top-level boxing exhibition, native New Yorker Algieri handed Provodnikov the third loss of his career and took his title. HBO Boxing has the official scorecards:
Algieri overcame two knockdowns in the first round to control two of the judges' cards the rest of the way. If you looked at both fighters' faces after the bout, the decision might not add up.
However, if you watched the fight and look at the following CompuBox numbers, it makes more sense:
Despite an eye that was grotesquely swollen shut and a bloody nose, Algieri boxed beautifully and defeated the purely offensive-minded champion.
When the fight was signed, few may have known who Chris Algieri was, but here's what the new champion says about his notoriety now:
The fight didn't begin well for Algieri.
Provodnikov served notice that he was not in the challenger's hometown to play games. A titanic left hook sent Algieri sprawling and immediately created swelling under his right eye.
Later in the round, Algieri would go down again from a right hand to the body.
Body punching was something Provodnikov should have done more of, but he was purely a headhunter after damaging Algieri's eye.
In the second round, Algieri boxed much better and adjusted to the champion's power. Still, he was taking punishment from the hard-punching Siberian.
In the third round, Algieri gathered his bearings. He got used to Provodnikov's power and was no longer being hurt by the shots. Algieri's hand and foot speed began to make the fight interesting.
The momentum continued to move in his favor through the sixth round. He peppered Provodnikov through a weak guard. The champion was looking for the one big shot to finish the bout but was losing rounds in the process.
Provodnikov's punches were harder and delivered more damage, but Algieri was landing more shots and outboxing him. This was going to be a difficult fight to score. Do you favor harder punches or volume?
Clearly, two of the judges went with the latter.
Despite slowing down at some points from the seventh through ninth rounds, Algieri still landed far more punches and at a higher rate.
In the final three rounds, Algieri continued to stick and move well. Provodnikov's head jutted backward continually from well-placed jabs and straights.
Once it was over, Provodnikov blamed Algieri's style for the setback:
He's right with part of his reasoning, but it would be inaccurate to call what Algieri did "running." He landed more and threw more. He simply fought intelligently.
Provodnikov seems to want his opponents to fight his style and see who comes out on top, but that's not going to happen at the top of the sport. A brawl clearly favored Provodnikov, and Algieri was wise to avoid that type of bout.
Looking ahead, Provodnikov will be exposed against any pure boxer he faces. Because of that limitation, he will have a tough time finding opponents of any stature.
He may be relegated to facing other exciting brawlers in knuckle-dragging contests, but he'll never be considered elite unless he learns how to handle the movers.
Algieri showed a lot of skill, athleticism and charm in his win. He was engaging in the post-fight interview and great in the ring. Per Boxing News 24, Algieri made $100,000, but bigger paydays should be on the horizon:
After the first round, Provodnikov was the perfect matchup for the tall, rangy, quick and skilled boxer. Whether he could look this good against a more well-rounded fighter is uncertain.
What we do know for sure is that we'll be seeing the new champion again.
Next time, he'll be sporting a little gold.
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