Ruslan Provodnikov will make his return to the ring on November 28 in Russia, and without U.S. TV or anyone else to demand that he fight a legitimate opponent, it appears that washed-up former lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo is the frontrunner for the fight.
Castillo, 40, told ESPN Deportes that he's agreed to a deal for the fight, but there still hasn't been an official announcement. Early response is, as you would expect, not good from boxing fans, who have endured the once-fearsome Castillo (66-12-1, 57 KO) being reduced to an also-ran for over seven years now, with frequent struggles to make agreed-upon weights.
The last time Castillo faced a world class fighter, he was decimated in four rounds by Ricky Hatton on HBO in 2007. Since then, he's gone 11-4 in 15 fights, not a bad record, but the wins have come almost entirely against club fighters and other journeymen. He's lost convincingly in that time to Sebastian Lujan, Alfonso Gomez, Jorge Paez Jr, and Antwone Smith.
It's worth noting, too, that Provodnikov fights at 140 pounds, a weight that Castillo hasn't made since a 2007 win over Adan Casillas, following the loss to Hatton. In his last two fights, Castillo has been over 150 pounds on the scales, and he even fought as a middleweight against Roberto Valenzuela in 2010. Given his history of issues making weight, even something like a 142 or 143 pound catchweight for this potential fight seems risky. Hell, even 147 seems risky.
Provodnikov (23-3, 16 KO) is coming off of an upset loss in June to Chris Algieri. A bounce-back fight is fine and understandable, but Castillo is way past done as a legitimate fighter in the sport, and there would seem to be plenty of guys out there who would better fit the bill of a designed win, a tune-up for the Siberian mauler.
But Russian fans do seem to love having former American-based stars visit, as evidenced by the likes of Roy Jones Jr and James Toney going over there to lose (or sometimes pick up paycheck wins, in Roy's case) in recent years. In the event of a Shane Mosley comeback, Russia would spring to mind as the most obvious locale for his next fight. And so it makes sense that Castillo might get this fight, as bad a fight as it is.
Provodnikov's manager Vadim Kornilov says that Julio Diaz is also in the mix, but that Castillo is definitely the leading candidate because he's more well-known in Russia. Are Russians just now getting American fights from 2005? Is that what's happening? Either way, expect Castillo to get the call. And the pay sounds good, as $500,000 is reportedly the offer to face Provodnikov in November.