Who doesn’t love a good fight? A great bout can announce the arrival of a new star, turn a star into a legend or simply entertain a thrilled audience. And let’s be clear here… 2013 was a great year for fights. The hardest part of compiling this list was thinking about what to leave out rather than looking for bouts to put in and there are number of contests that likely deserve at least an honorable mention only to find themselves excluded because I didn’t want to list dozens of contests.
One of the great joys of boxing is watching new stars appear seemingly from nowhere, thrust into the limelight not by salivating promoters or over-eager media but instead simply through the strength of their performances and the acclamation of their fans. This award is to celebrate those who rose from (relative) obscurity in 2012 to become notable names in boxing as 2013 comes to a close.
It lived up to the hype.
As expected, Provodnikov was relentless, constantly coming forward and looking to land hurtful shots. Alvarado found some success early through a combination of occasionally going toe to toe and then reverting to a more classic boxing approach, while landing a number of his signature uppercuts. Over seven rounds the bout was basically even and a case could be made for either fighter to have a narrow edge on the scorecards. The eight however was decisive. Alvarado appeared to have serious stamina issues… perhaps because he was very much in headhunting mode and throwing wild punches, perhaps because of a number of agonizing body shots from Provodnikov. Ruslan hurt Alvarado and then mercilessly pursued him, landing with bigger and bigger shots, dropping him twice. Alvarado tried to jab and move during the ninth and tenth round but he could do nothing to change the momentum, nothing to frustrate Provodnikov and nothing to stop the blows piling on. The referee could have stopped it during the ninth, Alvarado’s corner probably should have after the ninth and finally they mercifully did with Alvarado on his stool after the tenth.
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).
So, who wins?
The two men who have done the most to derail the carrer of Manny Pacquiao… one controversially, one chillingly… meet this Saturday in a bout that will tell us a lot about both men.
It is some ways unfair to reduce both of these talented boxers to just their bouts with the Filipino superstar but there can be no doubt that it is their battles with Pac Man that to a large extent have defined their careers. Marquez’s four bouts with Pacquiao brought him from an underrated and little known Mexican boxer stuck in the shadow of Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales to one of the most well known names in boxing while Bradley’s win over Pacquiao should have turned him from an underappreciated star of 140lbs to a superstar only for the controversy over the scoring to sour the entire episode.
Both men turned down the chance to have another crack at Manny for this bout. So after this weekend, who will think that decision was somewhat foolish?