In a fight contested for the WBO light welterweight title, Chris Algieri shocked the world by defeating Ruslan Provodnikov via close split decision at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Ruslan Provodnikov was coming off the back of an impressive 2013, having a 12 round war with Timothy Bradley, followed by his title winning fight against Mike Alvarado in October. The two victories boosted the fan base of ‘The Siberian Rocky,’ as he gained a reputation of being one of the most dangerous fighters in boxing. Unfortunately, Provodnikov had difficulties securing bouts with any highly ranked opponents thus the delay for his first title defense.
The fighter who stepped up to the challenge was Chris Algieri, an undefeated yet relative unknown fighter whose biggest win came last February, as he defeated Emanuel Taylor by a 10 round unanimous decision. Nevertheless, Algieri did present some challenges coming into the bout, having a height advantage and fighting with a mobile boxing style, would that be enough to keep Provodnikov away for 12 rounds?
The action started immediately in round 1, Provodnikov came in stalking and looking to corral his foe so he could unleash his power shots. It didn’t take long for Ruslan to find the target, as midway into the round he landed a crushing left hook that sent the unbeaten Algieri to the floor for the first time in his professional boxing career.
What was more alarming than the knockdown itself was the fact that Algieri’s right eye was beginning to swell up. Later in the same round, Provodnikov cornered Algieri — who was still having difficulties seeing from his right eye — and with a combination of punches forced him to take a knee. A big round 1 for Ruslan Provodnikov, which gave the feeling that this would be a short night.
Algieri recovered in round two and was able to get some movement going, and even snuck in a few quick, sharp shots in, but Provodnikov seemed undeterred by the power of Algieri and walked forward, cutting the ring off and landing some solid blows.
By round 3, Algieri’s face was showing signs of wear — particularly on his right side, as Ruslan landed some solid left hook shots — despite Provodnikov’s high paced attack, Chris had some good moments, landing some clean straight shots and boxing well at stages of the round.
Both fighters were mixing up their attacks, landing shots up top and to the body. Algieri’s eye continued to swell at an alarming rate — being almost completely shut during round 4. One thing was clear, Chris Algieri was not here to be a stepping stone for Provodnikov, and he still had success in keeping Ruslan off of him for the most part and landing some peppering blows.
Ruslan would continue to walk right through Algieri’s shots, but Algieri was landing enough that he didn’t give any opening to land the home run shots of his opponent. Some rounds were going to clearly be subjective for the judges, as you had Algieri landing at a more frequent pace and at a higher volume, but his shots did not seem to have much behind them, whereas Ruslan Provodnikov was the one pushing forward and when he did land, he landed with substantial force.
The later rounds played out in a similar manner, one fighter looking for knockout punches and the other being content to stick and move for the remainder of the fight. During rounds there was a sense of urgency in the Provodnikov corner, as Freddie Roach warned his fighter that the fight was way too close and that he should look for a knockout. Despite Roach’s advise, Provodnikov was unable to land any shots that put Algieri in any trouble of being stopped.
The fight was close going into the final rounds, but the fact that ‘The Siberian Rocky’ had a big performance in round one — earning him a 10-7 score — and coupled with the fact that he did land the more damaging blows, you felt as though Provodnikov had done enough to win. Two of the judges disagreed, as they had the bout scored 114-112 in favor of Chris Algieri, and the third judge scored a wide margin for Provodnikov, 117-109. Chris Algieri is the new WBO light welterweight champ.
Some holes were exposed in Provodnikov’s game, as a boxer with good movement and boxing abilities can give him many issues and stifle his attack, but you can’t take credit away from Ruslan, he maintained consistent pressure in this bout and did a lot of good work in the fight, and many fans will argue that he should have gotten the nod in the scorecards.
Logic would state that the controversy and closeness of the bout would scream for a rematch, but with Provodnikov stating post fight that the style of fight that Algieri brings would not be the best for him, you have to wonder if he will look to go in another direction.
As for the winner on the night, Chris Algieri seems to have had his coming out party, showing determination and grit, battling through an eye injury, he has earned some new fans and might even thrown himself into the next Manny Pacquiao fight sweepstakes — a fight that would be an interesting clash in styles, and also a safer fight for Pacquiao than the brawling style that Ruslan Provodnikov would have provided.
Regardless how you scored the fight, after this Saturday night, if you did not know who Chris Algieri was as fighter, you do now. And while he might have had the odds up against him, he showed what having the heart of a champion can lead to, and in this case it’s being the new WBO light welterweight champion of the world.