WHILE boxing fans eagerly await the welterweight unification showdown between Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 3 (Manila time), a helluva appetizer is about to be served on April 19, when Ruslan Provodnikov of Russia squares off with Lucas Matthysse of Argentina in a 12-round, non-title junior welterweight (140 pounds) match in Verona, New York.
Experts are still debating if the Pacquiao-Mayweather Jr. fight is really worth the mega bucks. Not a few, in fact, harbor the apprehension that Mayweather Jr. might turn the fight into a rat race. This apprehension does not exist in Provodnikov-Matthysse as a slugfest is virtually guaranteed. The combatants both love to come forward and throw punches laced with homicidal intentions. Provodnikov totes a record of 24-3 with 17 knockouts while Matthysse is coming in with a ledger of 36-3 with 34 knockouts. In the case of Matthysse, that’s a whopping 85 percent knockout ratio. Matthysse stresses that in all his fights, except the loss to junior welterweight king Danny Garcia in September 2013, he has managed to at least knock down all of his opponents.
Dubbed the 'Siberian Rocky,' Provodnikov was born 31 summers ago in the small island village of Beryozovo, Russia. Provodnikov was working in several oil rigs in Northern Siberia when he decided to pursue a career in boxing. Competing in the 105-pound class, he compiled an impressive amateur record of 170 wins, 10 losses before turning professional in December 2006.
Provodnikov merited tons of attention in the punch-for-pay ranks in March 2013, when he dropped a controversial decision to American Timothy Bradley Jr. for the World Boxing Organization’s (WBO) welterweight (147 pounds) title. Provodnikov rocked Bradley on several occasions and came close to stopping him in the 12th and final round. Not a few thought the Russian was robbed of a victory.
Provodnikov rebounded from the defeat by bamboozling Denver’s Mike Alvarado in 10 rounds to win the WBO junior welterweight strap in October 2013. He never got past his first defense though, as Chris Algieri outboxed him in 12 rounds in April 2014. Provodnikov dropped Algieri twice in round one but failed to capitalize.
Matthysse, 32, comes from a family of boxers. An older brother, Walter Matthysse, boxed as a super middleweight (168 pounds) before retiring in 2009 with a record of 26-5 with 25 knockouts. An older sister, Edith Soledad Matthysse, currently competes in the featherweight class in women’s boxing and has a record of 12-7, with one knockout.
Matthysse was crowned Argentina's national amateur champion before turning pro in 2004. He went undefeated in his first 27 fights before dropping a split decision to American Zab Judah in November 2010. He dropped Judah in the 10th round but just couldn’t finish him off. Matthysse won seven of his next eight fights to finally earn a shot at the World Boxing Association and World Boxing Council junior welterweight crowns, but a badly-shut eye resulted in him losing on points to Garcia.
Matthysse has won his last two fights, including a heart-pounding 11th-round stoppage of John Molina, Jr in April 2014. Provodnikov’s last outing was a fifth-round stoppage of old-timer Jose Luis Castillo in November 2014.
Matthysse is a ferocious body puncher while Provodnikov has a tendency to throw wide but powerful punches. Provodnikov’s skin is prone to swelling but lately Matthysse’s jaw has been a bit fragile. Matthysse was knocked down twice and was cut in in his left eye when he rallied to stop Molina Jr.
No world title is at stake, but just about every astute follower of the fight game is trumpeting Provodnikov-Matthysse as a candidate for ‘Fight of the Year’ honors. If the fight lives up to expectations, Golden Boy Promotions head honcho Oscar De La Hoya wants the winner to take on the winner of the Pacquiao-Mayweather Jr. fight. Then again, if the fight turns out to be a slambang affair, fight fans might want another serving of Provodnikov-Matthysse.