In a battle of punchers you should generally favor the better boxer between the two, and that's what I'm doing here. Mike Alvarado's footwork and jab should be his keys to victory if he stays disciplined like he did in the Brandon Rios rematch. But if Provodnikov can lure Alvarado into a shoot out, this fight could go either way. Alvarado's ability to block and slip punches still leaves a lot to be desired in my eyes, plus he's not the most durable fighter I've seen. But he is a smart fighter so I think he uses his advantages in height, reach, output and experience to pull out a hard fought win.
Be that as it may, this fight is only going to be a FOTY candidate, which it is being promoted as, if it unfolds in a manner that favors the more limited Ruslan Provodnikov, who may or may not be more durable than Mike Alvarado. As Provodnikov has never been in there with a serious puncher it's hard to tell how much he can take. I think he takes a better punch than Alvarado, but that's just a guess. As such I think if the fight ends in a knockout it's pretty much a 50/50 type of deal. If it goes to the scorecards I expect more of a 80/20 split in favor of the hometown champion Alvarado. Thus, overall, my odds favor Alvarado to win.
However, in light of the weigh-in where Provodnikov looked a little more fit and excited about the fight while Alvarado looked a little too care-free and missed weight by a full pound, I can't really put too much stock into a prediction. Will Alvarado make weight comfortably on his 2nd attempt or will he be drained? Or will he not try to make weight at all and just forfeit his title? The answers to these questions are important. And at the time I'm writing this, I have no idea what they are. But for shits and giggles lets go with Alvarado by decision.
In the words of Rob Gordon, my guts have had shit for brains lately. I've gone with gut feelings on Bradley-Marquez and even Mayweather-Canelo, allowing myself to make picks that were in my head wrong but pressing on me. And I did the opposite with Garcia-Matthysse, where I wanted to pick Garcia but thought I was making the smart play with Matthysse. So basically, my picks are colder than the ol' "witch's titty" right now.
My gut likes Provodnikov here, but I think there are sound reasons for that, too. Alvarado has taken some serious punishment in his last four fights. Even though he's 3-1 in that span with two decision wins and a stoppage, he took some beatings against Brandon Rios both times, and against Mauricio Herrera and Breidis Prescott. They weren't potentially career-altering poundings or anything, but when you stack them all up in a row, Alvarado has been pushing it hard for the last two years with these fights. That's four straight really strong action fights with back-and-forth punishment.
I think this is the real evidence fight for Provodnikov, though. If he gets outboxed here, or loses convincingly however it happens, then he has to be considered a dangerous fringe contender and nothing more. I'm going to go with Alvarado in a very close, disputed decision, and I'll try to call the scores right now: 114-112, 111-115, 116-110. (I think both guys hit the canvas at some point.) Alvarado SD-12.
I like Provodnikov, but this is just such a tough match-up for him. It's hard for me to envision a path to his victory. Do what no one else has done and convincingly stop Mike Alvarado? Possible, but unlikely. Win enough rounds against the more technical, extraordinarily hard-working Alvarado? Again, unlikely. This is the rare fight where one man seems like the easy, clear-cut winner, but I still can't wait to see this fight. I mean, this kind of has to be great, right? Alvarado KO-9.
While Mike Alvarado and Ruslan Provodnikov may never quite be considered among the true elite of their division, the appeal of this match-up should be obvious. Indeed, looking around at the 140-147 picture, this is, on paper, arguably as good an action fight as can be made, at least from the HBO side of the fence.
In the build-up to last week's main event, much was said about how Timothy Bradley fought stupid against Provodnikov back in March, only for him to then go on to fight very intelligently indeed against - obviously - a far better technician than the Russian.
The potential flaw in that logic is that Provodnikov simply hasn't been given enough credit for dragging a legitimate pound-for-pound type like Bradley through all hell. When revisiting that fight, it's clear Provodnikov didn't do anything particularly sophisticated, but saw Bradley's weakness - a vulnerability to the big overhand right - and exploited it throughout. Unlike Bradley coming into that bout, though, we've already seen Alvarado hurt. How does he react if Provodnikov identifies a similar flaw to hone in on?
My hunch here is that Alvarado's not going to give him the same kind of stationary target. After having so much success down the stretch in the Rios rematch in attempting to outbox his man, Alvarado's surely going to be focused on repeating the trick here. What's more, the jab that he utilized so well last time out could well be even more effective against an opponent who's both shorter than Rios and even rougher around the edges. There's no way this fight ends up boring, but Alvarado's rangy approach may disappoint those looking for all-out war, en route to earning him a wide, 117-111-type, set of scorecards. Alvarado UD-12.
What a fight this could be! Two fearless brawlers, neither of whom think anything of putting life and limb on the line in the name of victory, facing off on a Saturday night. You could hardly ask for more. There's only one thing that can stop this bout from being an instant "Fight of the Year" candidate, however, and its name is Mike Alvarado. We all know how Provodnikov will come in - face first in a straight line, throwing one brutal combination after another with his lead-laden fists in pursuit of a knockout that, given his power, could feasibly come at any time. What we don't know is how "Mike High Mike" has planned to deal with that.
In pre-fight interviews, Alvarado has alluded to the fact that the match could turn into a war at any moment, but even the man who dispatched the hard-punching Brandon Rios has got to know that there's few in the light-welterweight division that could stand toe-to-toe with the fearsome Russian and leave the ring on their feet.
If Alvarado gets caught early, maybe he'll turn it into the phone-booth battle we all want to see, but my money is on him moving and boxing - much like he did in the second fight against Rios - en route to a split decision victory. Provodnikov will make it interesting, however, and I can see him landing enough hard shots (and winning enough rounds) to make some believe afterwards that he was robbed once again. Alvarado SD-12.
The most intriguing aspect of this fight is that we get to find out if Provodnikov's performance against Tim Bradley was just a fluke or a sign that he is truly a big-time player. More than likely, the answer will lay somewhere in between.
Alvarado is the more versatile of the two. His boxing skill is nothing amazing but it was good enough to get the job done against a constantly charging Brandon Rios, and Rios is a better pressure fighter than Provodnikov. Alvarado will attempt to duplicate his success against Rios by setting up a jab while only engaging when absolutely necessary. This will frustrate Provodnikov, who will get a little wild and sloppy trying to find a home for his power punches as the fight wears on. He will win some rounds but not enough to get a decision in Colorado, Alvarado's home state.
In a close but clear fight that underwhelms a little, I like Alvarado to box more than brawl and take a decision. Alvarado UD-12.
This is a real 50-50 fight. Neither boxer is shy of a tear-up, both carry knockout power and both take a punch well. For me, Alvarado is the better all-round boxer, whereas Provodnikov has the slight edge in brute strength and work-rate, apart from that there isn't much between them.
Alvarado may surprise one or two people by using his skills more in the early rounds, eventually though, both men are going to stand and trade punches. Either fighter could win this one with both capable of getting a stoppage victory, most likely in the later rounds. I've gone back and forth with this one but my gut instinct is that Alvarado takes the early rounds before having to survive a scare or two from the eighth round onwards to sneak the closest of points victories. Alvarado SD-12.