It's not every fight that has fans really looking forward to it with anticipation of a sure-fire war but this weekend's WBO Light Welterweight title fight between Mike Alvarado (34-2, 23) and Ruslan Provodnikov (23-2, 16) was one such fight. It was two men who had styles made for each other, two men who had power and heart and two men who knew how to entertain fans.
Whilst many such fights can fall short of their mark I think it's fair to say that this lived to expectation and it seemed clear from the off that this wasn't going to just fall short.
The action kicked off in the way we expected. Provodnikov came forward, living up to the idea that he hasn't got a reverse gear and Alvarado showed off his superior boxing fighting Provodnikov off whilst fighting off the back foot. Alvarado certainly looked the better "boxer" but Provodnikov was having success and seemed to take the round with his harder clearer shots.
The fact Alvarado had lost the opening round saw him going to plan B. Boxing and moving. When Alvarado was fighting on the move he made Provodnikov look rather limited and in fact the movement looked like it was confusing the Russian who clearly lost rounds 2 and 3. Oddly it was whilst Alvarado was boxing on the move that a strange feeling seemed to come over the bout, "this might actually go the distance".
Alvarado's clear successes came to an end in round 4 as he began to get a little over-confident and almost seemed to fight Provodnikov's bout. This was a silly mistake though one that he likely thought could help break Provodnikov's confidence. If he could beat Provodnikov on the inside then where was Provodnikov going to go? Unfortunately, as mentioned, it backfired.
Alvarado returned to his moving tactics in round 5 as he tried to reestablish control of the bout, though unfortunately his output had dropped and the first 2 minutes or so were about Provodnikov who actually threw punches. Alvarado tried to steal in the final minute but it was too little too late as Provodnikov seemed to take a narrow lead. Thankfully for Alvarado his reestablished himself in round 6, which like round 5 had been close though he seemed to have just done enough to claim it as we moved in to the second half of the fight with a level, or near level score card.
The close nature of rounds 5 and 6 was again felt in round 7, a round that for 2 minutes 58 seconds was an even round. Unfortunately for the defending champion he lost the round in those final 2 seconds as he was shaken up, hard.
It wasn't so much that Alvarado had lost round 7 in the final 2 seconds that had proven to be a key, but that Provodnikov had hurt genuinely hurt him. It was less about the "10-9" on a piece of paper but more about the huge confidence boost Provodniov had had from the action at the bell, confidence that seemed to really boost him in round 8.
The eighth round by far the most crucial to the fight. Provodnikov grew from the previous round and hurt Alvarado early in the round. Provodnikov landed a shot upstairs that hurt Alvarado then a body shot that seemed to really shake Alvarado up. A follow up attack sent Alvarado down for a 9 count and from then on it was Alvarado never looked the same man. He was dropped again later in the round then did all he could to survive through the final minute of the round.
By round 9 it looked like we were only going to have a new champion. Unfortunately Provodnikov was starting to look tired and he could capitalise on Alvarado who was still looking very leggy. Alvarado managed to avoid a fight, despite his legs looking tired, through out round 9 though he did lose the round by doing very little in terms of offensive work.
It was starting to look like Provodnikov had missed his chance to stop Alvarado though a huge assault at the end of round 10 forced the defending champions corner to act. They knew their man was spent, they knew he had struggled with weight and they knew that he needed saving before his career was thrown away chasing a lost cause. They refused, rightfully, to let their man out for round 11 conceding the title though saving what was left of their man.