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Showtime boxing preview: Provodnikov vs Molina and undercard

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Ruslan Provodnikov and John Molina Jr square off in the main event of a five-fight card this Saturday on Showtime and Showtime Extreme.

Alex Menendez/Getty Images

This Saturday night, June 11, on Showtime (9 p.m. ET) and Showtime Extreme (7 p.m. ET), we'll be getting five fights from the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York, headlined by Ruslan Provodnikov and John Molina Jr in the main event.

Here's a look at each of the matchups, with three to air on Showtime, and two in the prelim slots on Showtime Extreme.

Ruslan Provodnikov vs John Molina Jr

Ruslan Provodnikov v Lucas Matthysse Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

Ruslan Provodnikov

Record: 25-4 (18 KO) ... Streak: W1 ... Last 5: 3-2 ... Last 10: 7-3 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'6" / 66" ... Age: 32

Thoughts: Provodnikov is a fan favorite, an all-action whirlwind of punches, no regard for defense, relentless pressure, and incredible toughness. He's also very beatable, and here's another thing: he hasn't beaten a decent opponent in almost three years.

Provodnikov is 3-3 in his last six fights, dating back to his 2013 Fight of the Year with Timothy Bradley Jr, a loss, and the follow-up against Mike Alvarado, a win and his last good win. Even that, for what it's worth, is sort of deserving of an asterisk, as Alvarado has admitted he wasn't really in prime shape for that fight. That's not Provodnikov's fault, but it's also the best win of his career. Past that and you're looking at guys like David Torres and Ivan Popoca. His last two wins have come against an incredibly washed up Jose Luis Castillo in 2014 and an incredibly under-prepared Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez in 2015. Around those fights, he's lost to Chris Algieri and Lucas Matthysse.

Style-wise, he's great to watch. But how good is he? That's a difficult thing to answer. He pushed Tim Bradley to the limit. You could argue he beat Algieri. His losses, in fact, have all been close, dating back to his first defeat against Mauricio Herrera in 2011. But for the most part, against his better opponents, he has come up short. His five best foes have been Herrera, Bradley, Alvarado, Algieri, and Matthysse. He's 1-4 against those opponents. Yes, he was competitive in the losses, but he did lose all of those fights.

So that's something to think about. Whether or not Molina stacks up to that group anymore is another question. Does he compare even to Algieri and Herrera, or is he closer in quality to Popoca and Torres now?

John Molina Jr

Broner vs. Molina Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Record: 28-6 (23 KO) ... Streak: W1 ... Last 5: 2-3 ... Last 10: 5-5 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'10½" / 71" ... Age: 33

Thoughts: Molina is a tough veteran fighter, but one can't help but think that we've seen his best and that he's now on the action fighter's decline. That does not bode well when facing someone as relentless as Provodnikov.

If you go back to 2009, when Molina's career started to get relevant, he's had a nice run overall. Not a top contender, not a world champion, not a big star, but an entertaining fighter generally worth tuning in to see -- until recently, that is. He lost for the first time in 2009, against Martin Honorio, but bounced back from that, and in 2010, stopped Hank Lundy in the 11th round, while down big on the scorecards.

In 2012, he got a shot against WBC lightweight titleholder Antonio DeMarco, and was stopped in 44 seconds. He came back from that to knock out Dannie Williams, then lost a majority decision to Andrey Klimov. Then he scored another dramatic late knockout, stopping Mickey Bey in the 10th and final round of a fight where Molina had lost either every round or damn close to it.

In 2014, he faced Lucas Matthysse, and dropped the favored slugger in the second and fifth rounds, before succumbing to Matthysse's power in the later rounds, and being knocked out in the 11th. That fight was a war. And since then, Molina has not been the same. He tried to box against Humberto Soto, and he lost. He tried to box against Adrien Broner, and he lost. He didn't look like John Molina in either fight. There was a listlessness to his performances against Soto and Broner, as he employed a style that on paper might suit him -- using his length and his reach and his height -- but in practice clearly did not.

Molina last fought in November, beating Jorge Romero in Dallas, an easy tune-up win. If this is the Molina of the Matthysse fight, he has a chance. Provodnikov is far from unbeatable. But if it's the Matthysse from the Broner and Soto fights, he'll probably get overwhelmed. Even if he may be a better skilled boxer than Provodnikov, with big height and reach advantages, Provodnikov will bulldoze his way through that. The only way for Molina to beat Provodnikov may be for him to match the machismo of his opponent.

Matchup Grade: C. I don't hate this fight, but its quality is going to depend on Molina's game plan. Again, if he tries to box, it's not going to work. Provodnikov is not Soto or Broner, but on the flip side of that, Soto and Broner are not Provodnikov. If Molina tries to patiently box here, he's going to find himself overwhelmed. To win, he has to be ready to go to war, like the old John Molina. If he is, this could be a great fight. If he's not, it could be a beatdown.

Demetrius Andrade vs Willie Nelson

Demetrius Andrade

Tom Casino/SHOWTIME

Record: 22-0 (15 KO) ... Streak: W22 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 6'1" / N/A ... Age: 28

Thoughts: A talented fighter with some remaining questions, but not many. Early in his pro career, there were questions about his toughness and whether or not he had the mental fortitude for the fight game, especially once he stepped up his competition. He's answered those pretty well, beating Vanes Martirosyan in a tough 12-round fight in 2013 to win the WBO junior middleweight title, defending just once against Brian Rose in 2014 before vacating the belt instead of fighting Jermell Charlo, his mandatory challenger.

That all led to an extended break where Andrade had promotional disputes, saying that Roc Nation had told him they were going to buy his contract from Star Boxing and Banner Promotions if he didn't take the Charlo fight, and that the company then reneged on the deal. Ultimately, Andrade wound up suing Roc Nation, as did Banner and Star, and here we are with Andrade still with his original team, after signing a new deal. And he's on Showtime, which was the network that was going to air Andrade-Charlo, and had offered Andrade a three-fight deal. It's a wild world.

Andrade is a very talented fighter; not necessarily a "whoa!" type of head-turner, but a very talented fighter. He last fought in October, beating Dario Fabian Pucheta in a mismatch by second round TKO, and that's his only fight in the last two years. So facing Willie Nelson here is a real step back up. On paper, he's a better fighter than Nelson, or at least that's the thought going in, but a long break without a competitive fight could have him a bit off his game. And if he's rusty, Nelson is good enough to take advantage.

But if Andrade fights like Andrade, he should win. In terms of pure boxing ability, he's right there with the best in this division.

Willie Nelson

PBC on ESPN: Willie Nelson v Tony Harrison Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Record: 25-2-1 (15 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6'3" / 75½" ... Age: 29

Thoughts: When Willie Nelson got his first crack on ShoBox back in 2011, he was an extremely tall, lanky welterweight who was trained by Jack "Double the Fuckin' Jab!" Loew. He was beaten that night by Vincent Arroyo, dropped three times in eight rounds and losing a majority decision. Chin and balance seemed to be major issues for Nelson.

Since then, he's moved up to 154 pounds and gained a reputation as a prospect buster. He beat Cuban Yudel Jhonson in 2012, and followed that up with a win over John Jackson four months later, taking a pair of undefeated records. Last year, he beat Tony Harrison by stoppage in the ninth round, a rally victory where he overwhelmed a fighter who got a bit ahead of himself.

Between those wins over unbeaten fighters, he went 4-1, beating Michael Medina, Luciano Cuello, Darryl Cunningham, and Luis Grajeda, before a 2014 loss to Vanes Martirosyan, who was and still is a contender in the division. He was competitive against Martirosyan in defeat. Most recently, Nelson fought on March 25, staying busy with a win over Jonathan Batista in Oklahoma.

This is a step back up for Nelson, and a huge opportunity. He's faced and beaten the unbeaten before, but Andrade is another level from Jhonson, Jackson, and Harrison. He's a slicker, smarter fighter than those guys, a more polished product, simply a better fighter. At his best, Andrade does look like one of the better fighters at 154 pounds, and he's already won a world title. But Nelson isn't easy for anyone. His height and awkwardness has given at least some problems to everyone he's faced, including Martirosyan. At the very least, he's a dangerous opponent for Andrade.

Matchup Grade: B-. Andrade is no thriller, and Nelson isn't exactly an action star. Nelson isn't bad to watch, though, and if he can force Andrade to fight how he wants him to, it could be an entertaining fight. Or if Andrade comes out looking to really make a big statement, as this is his first fight anyone's going to have seen in two years, and at 28, he's right in what should be his prime, and he should be hunting for the top guys at 154. But this one is dangerous, not just because Nelson is a solid fighter himself, but because Andrade hasn't faced a real opponent in so long.

Dejan Zlaticanin vs Franklin Mamani

Dejan Zlaticanin

Stephanie Trapp/SHOWTIME

Record: 21-0 (14 KO) ... Streak: W21 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5'4" / N/A ... Age: 32

Thoughts: Zlaticanin has emerged as a top contender in the 135-pound division somewhat out of nowhere. He'd fought his entire career at home in Montenegro, plus a few fights in Bosnia and Herzegovinia and Serbia, his best win over that period coming against Petr Petrov in 2013. But in 2014, he was signed to face Ricky Burns in Glasgow.

It wasn't seen as much of anything going in. Burns was expected to win, it was supposed to be a tune-up fight, a "get-well" matchup over a guy with an undefeated record and not much proven. Instead, Zlaticanin won a split decision, not easy to do on someone else's home turf, dropping Burns in the first round and doing enough the rest of the way to secure the victory.

It was a year before he got another good fight, though, as he signed with Al Haymon and made his U.S. debut last June in Birmingham, Alabama, against top prospect Ivan Redkach. Redkach had built something of a name for himself as a lightweight on the rise. Zlaticanin stopped him in the fourth round. That win was supposed to get him a shot at Jorge Linares, but with Linares shelved due to injury, Zlaticanin will have to wait for that; here, he'll fight for the interim WBC title, a situation where an interim champion actually makes sense.

Zlaticanin is short for the division at 5'4", a compact fighter with good power, aggressive but not reckless, a pressure fighter who has already scored a pair of good wins in the last two years. This is even something of a step back for him in terms of opposition, at least on paper, so for once, he's the clear favorite.

Franklin Mamani

YouTube

Record: 21-2-1 (12 KO) ... Streak: W10 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: N/A / N/A ... Age: 29

Thoughts: Bolivia's Mamani is a replacement opponent in this fight whose most notable win came in 2013 against a washed up DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley in La Paz. All but two of Mamani's fights have come at home in Bolivia. And he is 0-2 outside of Bolivia, losing to Sebastien Madani in 2011 in France, and Gumersindo Carrasco in 2012 in Argentina, both fights being blown out on the scorecards.

Perhaps the most interesting thing you'll find about Mamani is that he is also a police lieutenant who was sued last year by a Venezuelan he arrested for drunk driving, and allegedly beat badly. His boxing record doesn't leave a whole lot to say, and this is a long enough preview without going over it. Here's the summary: he's beaten nobody and will likely lose here.

Matchup Grade: D+. I may be being generous. How many times have we seen guys who have fluffed up, gaudy records in their native country, who get exposed badly when they go on the road? Mamani is 0-2 on the road against lesser opponents than Zlaticanin. This could be a total farce.

Willie Monroe Jr vs John Thompson

Willie Monroe Jr

Esther Lin/Bad Left Hook

Record: 19-2 (6 KO) ... Streak: L1 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5'10" / 74" ... Age: 29

Thoughts: When Gennady Golovkin needed an opponent last May for his debut at the Forum in Inglewood, California, Willie Monroe Jr answered the call. It was a bold move. Monroe deserves respect for going out there against Golovkin and doing his best. But he was also not a very good opponent for GGG, and that showed on fight night. Golovkin basically blew him out of the ring, dropping him twice in the second round, then finishing the fight early in the sixth.

Monroe has not fought since then, so this is his comeback bout. Before losing to Golovkin, he'd gone on a solid run, winning nine in a row after a split decision loss in 2011 to one of the ultimate prospect checkers, Darnell Boone. He won the 2014 Boxcino middleweight tournament, beating Donatas Bondorovas, VItaliy Kopylenko, and Brandon Adams. He followed that up with a win over veteran scrapper Bryan Vera.

Monroe is a pretty good boxer, but the thing ot remember is that, like Thompson, he's frankly proven very little. Yeah, he won a Boxcino tournament, but that was against other guys who hadn't proven much. He beat Vera, but Vera is a professional opponent -- a tough one, and a good one, but a professional opponent. And Golovkin wiped him out. That's not to say that neither of these guys are any good, but we're kind of still waiting to figure out how good either of them are.

John Thompson

Boxing at Manchester Arena Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

Record: 17-2 (6 KO) ... Streak: L1 ... Last 5: 3-2 ... Last 10: 8-2 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6'1" / N/A ... Age: 27

Thoughts: John Thompson was a late entrant into the 2015 Boxcino tournament at 154 pounds. He hadn't fought in 13 months, following a KO-2 loss to Frank Galarza, when he got into the ring against Ricardo Pinell on ESPN2. He won a six-round decision over Pinell, followed two months later with an eight-round split decision over Stanyslav Skorokhod, and then beat Brandon Adams a month and a half after that via second round TKO, having come off the canvas in the first round himself, to complete an improbable journey. It was a great little story.

Less than five months after beating Adams, Thompson found himself in Manchester, England, facing Liam Smith for the vacant WBO junior middleweight title. He didn't really belong in a world title fight, but there he was. And he started well, using his length and jab to keep Smith at bay for the first couple of rounds. In the sixth, he was hurt by Smith, and the home fighter kept up the pressure in the seventh round, scoring a big knockout with Thompson face down on the canvas, unable to get himself back to his feet.

It wasn't a bad showing for John Thompson, especially when you consider that, again, he probably shouldn't have been there in the first place. Now he's back with a chance to get his career going again, but he has to be the underdog here. It wasn't Smith's power that made the difference, really, it was Thompson showing defensive vulnerabilities that got him caught repeatedly, even before it was clear that he was in trouble at the end of the sixth. Thompson will need to be better than he's been before.

Matchup Grade: C. There's really nothing wrong with it, but is there anything to be excited about? It's two guys looking to come back from stoppage losses and get themselves back into the win column. For the fourth fight down the bill, that's not a problem. It's a fight with guys at the same level and frankly not a ton of upside.

Andrey Fedosov vs Miguel Heredia

Andrey Fedosov

Emily Harney/Banner Promotions

Record: 28-3 (23 KO) ... Streak: W4 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 8-2 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6'1" / N/A ... Age: 30

Thoughts: Fedosov won Boxcino last year, which briefly served as the kiss of death for the next year or so of a fighter's career. Born in Russia and now living in California, Fedosov is a decent fighter, nothing more, nothing less. The Boxcino tournament win -- where he beat Nat Heaven, Lenroy Thomas, and Donovan Dennis -- has created a bit of momentum in his career, though some has been lost as he hasn't fought a little over a year now.

Fedosov's stiffest real challenge to date was a 2013 fight with Bryant Jennings, where to be fair he did give Jennings some problems, and made a fight of it before the bout was stopped after the sixth round due to a cut. It was a good, action-packed fight while it lasted. If nothing else, we know Fedosov comes to fight, can bang a little, and is tough. His other loss came to Lance Whitaker back in 2010, a split decision.

Beyond the fact that he's probably just not a world class talent, there's also the fact that Fedosov is small for today's heavyweight world. At 6'1" and about 220 pounds, he's tiny compared to the likes of Tyson Fury, Wladimir Klitschko, Deontay Wilder, or even someone like Kubrat Pulev. But he is fun to watch; his last six fights have ended by stoppage, and he's only gone past eight rounds once in his career.

Mario Heredia

ESTO

Record: 13-1 (11 KO) ... Streak: W9 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6'3" / 75" ... Age: 23

Thoughts: Mario Heredia has a fascinating history on the scales. He's had 14 pro fights, and BoxRec lists weights for nine of them. In order, dating back to 2012: 235½, 248, 247, 229¼, 270, 277, 228, 286½, 288¾. So there's really no telling what kind of shape he's going to be in on Friday when he weighs in, and Saturday when he fights.

Heredia lost his fifth pro fight in Mexico City to a club fighter named Wilfrido Leal, stopped after two rounds, but avenged that loss four months later, too, knocking Leal out in the first round. Since then he's won nine in a row, but against largely very soft competition, novice fighters with records of 1-2, 3-0, 2-1-1, 3-1, and 0-21, before stepping up a bit, as it were, in his last three. He beat a fighter with an 11-16 record last September, then a guy with a 21-10-1 record in October, and then in December, he faced his first fighter you've probably heard of, club veteran Saul Montana, who is 45 years old and hadn't fought since 2011.

So there's really nothing on Heredia's record thus far. That doesn't mean he can't fight, though, nor does his ongoing weight weirdness. He was a two-time Mexican National Olympics gold medalist with a reported amateur record of 47-5, and represented the country at the 2011 World Amateur Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he lost to Artur Beterbiev in the second round.

That said, it's a little difficult to fathom a fighter who sometimes weighs 230 pounds and sometimes weighs 290 pounds really going anywhere in pro boxing. It does indicate a lack of discipline and commitment that simply won't fly at a certain level. Chris Arreola's similar problems kept him from his ultimate goals, and Andy Ruiz Jr, the Top Rank prospect, has really not gotten untracked in his pro career despite good skills.

Matchup Grade: C. It's a heavyweight filler fight that hopefully just won't stink out the joint, and it probably will not. Fedosov is generally good for a watchable fight at least, so this one should be at least entertaining while it lasts.