Another weekend and we seemingly have yet another British card with yet another British fighter right on the verge of world title contention.
This week’s contestant is Kell “Special K” Brook, an undefeated 27 year old from Sheffield with a 30-0 record. I sort of have a love/hate relationship with Brook as a fan, much of which is out of his control. He’s clearly a talented boxer but as a fans we’ve been told by his promoters (originally Frank Warren and now Matchroom) that he’s “the next” world title holder for at least the last three (if not four… if not five…) years… and yet here we are, years later and she’s still not a world champion and still not had his title shot. Fairly or unfairly that tends to build a level of resentment… Nathan Cleverly went through the same thing as a match with Hopkins was constantly mentioned only for us to instead get Robin Krasniqi. Perhaps most frustratingly of all, Brook could have already had a title shot but a series of injuries meant that the hapless Lee Purdy replaced him and while the Colchester man was brave, he was utterly outclassed by Devon Alexander. A win here and Brook is, supposedly, guaranteed a title shot early next year.
Undoubtedly the biggest name on the undercard is former 135lbs unified title holder Juan Diaz. “The Baby Bull” had a long and successful career at 135lbs, picking up the WBO belt before unifying with first Acelino Freitas and then Julio Diaz and at one time had a legitimate case for being considered the best lightweight in the world and arguably a top 10 pound for pound talent. That said, his career did entire a distinct downward streak following the victory of Diaz. He was out muscled, out though and out fought by Nate Campbell to lose his belts, he had a good comeback win over Michael Katsidis (which was wider than the judges would have you believe) and then was stopped in an absolute war with Juan Manuel Marquez. His next bout was a very controversial decision victory over Paul Malignaggi and he then lost a rematch to the Magic Man before losing a second bout to Marquez which was more tactical but still fairly exciting.
And at this stage Diaz bowed out. And no-one blamed him.
Sometimes bouts come along that are interesting because of what they represent. Regardless of how exciting what happens in the ring is likely to be they’re bouts we tune into because of the stature of the boxers in question, the title on the line, the way it’s been hyped… a vast selection of reasons. Last week’s bout between Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez is a good example of that. While many looked to the pair’s last bouts and thought it would be a blood and guts war, I suspected different and while I think my view was correct I still enjoyed the highly charged technical and strategic chess match.
This one’s different.
Ruslan Provodnikov and Mike Alvarado are both coming off fight of the year candidates… hell, Alvarado’s coming off three in his last four and two in a row. And these weren’t one-offs or a strange quirk of fate. Both have throughout their careers put on exciting bouts that get a fan’s blood pumping. Both are aggressive, both are as much fighters as they are boxers, both hit hard, both keep up a high workrate, both look for offence over defence. And more then that their styles mesh. While boxing has a habit of making even the most sensible predictions look foolish, it’s hard to imagine this not being an exciting bout.
And let’s be clear, this isn’t just a bout which will likely be entertaining but represents nothing. Both Alvarado and Provodnikov are good boxers in their primes and near the top of their division. Golden Boy and their 140lbs tournament may have dominated the headlines regarding junior welterweight over recent years but the winner of this bout will have every right to consider themselves one of the best in the world at this weight… maybe a step below Danny Garcia but certainly on the level of say Lucas Matthysse (and the fact that we will likely never see Matthysse vs Alvarado, Rios or Provodnikov is one of the saddest consequences of the cold war between Top Rank and Golden Boy).
He has a professional record of 37-4 and has held world titles in three different weight classes. He has at various times been seen as the best 140, 147 and 154lbs boxer in the world and even today, coming off two losses RING magazine (although the reputation of the Bible of Boxing has taken a battering in recent years) still rank him as the fourth best boxer in the world at his new home of 154lbs. By any measure that is an impressive record and at 32 the man is still in his physical prime.
So why was it that when I started thinking about how to open this piece I considered a somewhat trite “one last punch before dying” style sentence? Why was I thinking about viewing this bout as Cotto’s version of Dylan Thomas’ “Do not go gentle into that good night” full of lines about how Cotto would rage against the dying of the light? How this was one last act of defiance?