Ruslan Provodnikov bruised Mike Alvarado all night with blow after powerful blow. Then, he broke Alvarado’s spirit.
The Russian brawler nicknamed the "Siberian Rocky" captured the junior welterweight title on Saturday when Alvarado couldn’t answer the bell for the 11th round.
Provodnikov (23-2) knocked down Alvarado (34-2) twice in the eighth round with a series of punches near the ropes and finished him off late in the 10th. The fight was halted by referee Tony Weeks, who asked Alvarado a few times if he wanted to continue and Alvarado responded that he didn’t.
To Provodnikov, he couldn’t have envisioned a better ending, comparing Alvarado throwing in the towel to Roberto Duran famously saying "No mas," in a fight against Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980.
"I made him not want to fight me anymore," Provodnikov said through a translator. "This is the best way I could become the champion."
Promoter Bob Arum, who represents Alvarado, said his boxer might have suffered a concussion.
Provodnikov didn’t have trainer Freddie Roach in his corner. Roach remained in the Philippines to work out with Manny Pacquiao, who fights Brandon Rios next month in Macau. It hardly mattered as Marvin Somodio filled in and kept Provodnikov on course.
"My team told me, `You’re ready — come out and become a champion,’" Provodnikov said. "I was doing my job."
Not even chants from the home crowd could lift Alvarado, who grew up in Denver and was wearing blue-and-orange trunks in honor of the Denver Broncos. Alvarado got lured into Provodnikov’s kind of fight — more brawling than boxing — and never recovered. This was quite a contrast to Alvarado’s win over Rios seven months ago, when he had a near flawless fight.
Alvarado’s eye puffed up midway through the fight, the result of a barrage of punches throughout the fight.
"It just wasn’t Mike’s night. He was too defensive," said Shann Vilhauer, the trainer for Alvarado. "I think he just started reading all these clips after the (Brandon) Rios fight, that he was a great boxer and he got away from what he’s best at. This guy (Provodnikov) was tailor made for him. He didn’t take advantage."
After the fight, Alvarado said that Provodnikov threw the hardest punches he has ever encountered. He also said manager Henry Delgado stopped the fight and that he agreed with the decision.
"It was not worth taking more punishment because the damage could be permanent," Alvarado said. "It just wasn’t my night. I have a lot of heart. I’m not a quitter."
This was the biggest bout in the area since former World Boxing Council lightweight champion Stevie Johnston fell to Jose Luis Castillo in 2000. It also was the first time HBO has televised a live fight from Colorado. Provodnikov didn’t pay any attention to the pre-fight "boos," or the crowd constantly chanting, "3-0-3," the city’s area code.
"If you want to be a world champion, you have to risk it — go and fight the best, go to his hometown," Provodnikov said.
With the win, Provodnikov could likely be in line for the winner of Pacquiao and Rios. The other likely candidate is Timothy Bradley Jr., a fighter Provodnikov lost to in a memorable bout last March.
A rematch with Alvarado isn’t out of the question, either.
"Unbelievable," said Arthur Pelullo, the president of Banner Promotions, which represents Provodnikov. "He had a great game plan. Even though Freddie wasn’t here, he stuck to the game plan. Alvarado is a tough son of a gun. He was the kind of kid you’ve got to give respect to. He’s a champion."
On the undercard, Juan Diaz (38-4) landed jab after jab on Juan Santiago (14-11-1), but couldn’t put him away in a lightweight fight. Diaz’s dominating performance led to a unanimous decision as he remained unblemished in his third fight back after a two-year layoff.
Diaz, a former titleholder nicknamed "Baby Bull," got burned out on boxing and took some time off, even opening a trucking company in Houston.
"I got some much-needed rounds," said Diaz, who’s hoping for another title shot down the road. "I think I broke him down very well throughout the fight. … He gave me a good fight."