Weekend Afterthoughts On Ruslan Provodnikov As Altered Beast, Strife For Mike Alvarado And More [UPDATED]

It's like a little boink on the chin from the original angle, but Luis Concepcion's left hook that put down Carlos Ruiz this weekend obviously had the impact of more than that — and the replay from another angle reveals how crisply the shot was thrown and landed. Two years and seven wins from his loss to Hernan Marquez, maybe it's time for Concepcion to try and make some noise against a flyweight contender maybe maybe?

It never hurts to start off with a sweet knockout. However: Most of this edition of Quick Jabs will be devoted to the big main event from this past Saturday on HBO. I recommend reading it while listening to TQBR Radio (which you can do later, or, if you click fast enough, live now) for a kind of immersive, stereophonic experience.

  • Ruslan Provodnikov's evolution. A select number of boxing writers — among them Cliff Rold, and certainly not this one — said all along that Provodnikov gave Timothy Bradley such a hard fight earlier this year not simply because Bradley swapped punches like a dummy. Provodnikov just managed to drag a second highly-rated fighter, top junior welterweight Mike Alvarado, into his kind of fight. Maybe both Bradley and Alvarado fought stupidly; Bradley certainly did. But after a couple fights worth of this, it gets difficult to deemphasize how much Provodnikov is the common denominator. Provodnikov's willpower, ability to absorb punishment and ravenous hunger to dish it out had made him an ESPN2 staple. I wasn't convinced before Saturday that he was much more, despite having observed some improvements in his speed and punch technique against Bradley. I'm now fully convinced he's much, much more. He's a handful for basically any junior welterweight or welterweight contender not named Floyd Mayweather, and there may be a not-too-distant day where I want to see Mayweather-Provodnikov because who the hell would be any better? We'll get to who Provodnikov might fight next shortly. But the leap he has made — from fun, limited TV fighter to authentic, fearsome contender — is a rare one, and it's been a (pain-filled) joy to watch it unfold. It's like in the old video game "Altered Beast" when the centurion powers up into a werewolf. Being the centurion kicks ass, but being the werewolf is, well, beastly. All props to Provodnikov and trainer Freddie Roach, who after a stretch of letdowns has shown once more in Provodnikov that he still can work magic in the gym. May you bleed all over your mother in many post-fight celebrations to come, Ruslan.
  • Alvarado quitting and his performance. Since I wasn't able to watch the fight live, I'm not sure to what extent people have complained about Alvarado retiring on his stool at the end of the 10th round. All I know is that it's among the more defensible quit jobs I've seen. He was done and probably had been for a couple rounds. His corner was telling him they were going to stop it, at least as I overheard it on HBO mics, and he appeared OK with that. Referee Tony Weeks insisted on hearing it from Alvarado himself or we might not ever have known he wanted to quit directly. He had no steam left on his punches and he was barely standing late in the 10th. The only question was whether he was going to get knocked out, and what for? I don't tend to get bothered at fighters quitting for whatever reason — once. Do it a couple times and my tolerance for your self-preservation becomes more situational; maybe boxing isn't the sport for you. As for Alvarado's performance, I want to give Provodnikov all kinds of credit for making it that kind of fight. That's not to say Alvarado didn't have some issues, like weight and a divided camp, as Adam Abramowitz laid out here. There's more evidence of it Tuesday after one of his trainers said Alvarado fought too defensively. (I'm not inclined to agree — Alvarado going after Provodnikov would've probably gotten him stopped sooner, given the superiority of Provodnikov's power and chin — although part of me wonders whether the only reason Alvarado's boxing worked as well as it did in the Brandon Rios rematch is because it was surprising he could do it as well as he did. Provodnikov no doubt saw this coming, save for the occasional switch to southpaw.) Point being, I don't think ill of Alvarado after this loss to this opponent and how he lost, which is not the same as saying he doesn't need to consider moving to welterweight and/or ending the split in his camp over how he should be fighting.
  • Next for Provodnikov and Alvarado. So HBO wants to talk up Provodnikov-Manny Pacquiao and I can't blame them, even if it makes Rios super-mad at Max Kellerman. Hey, if Rios wins, a Provodnikov bout is fantastic. Let's just call it Alvarado vs. the winner of Pacquiao-Rios. Either works. Also working is a rematch with Bradley. And Showtime's Stephen Espinoza has indicated Provodnikov, who's affiliated with promoter Artie Pelullo rather than the Top Rank/Golden Boy titans dividing the sport and the networks, is welcome over on Sho for a Lucas Matthysse bout, say. All of it works. And if he wins one more of those kind of fights, then Mayweather is the next natural step. But basically Provodnikov vs. any top 140/147 pounder will do until then — just some options are better than others. And Alvarado drew a nice reported crowd in Denver Saturday, so he'll still have options assuming the figure isn't too inflated. Should Rios lose (don't call me a motherfucker, Rios! I'm just saying "if!") Alvarado-Rios III makes sense. Alvarado-Juan Manuel Marquez makes sense. He, too, works well with any variety of men around his weight, although it would be better to pair him with another top fighter also coming off a loss so the winner can re-establish himself with the public a bit more.
  • The Rest. The return of "Legendary Nights" to HBO was supremely welcome, and picking the Gatti-Ward trilogy for the revival made complete sense. I thought it was on par with previous editions of Legendary Nights… "2 Days: Mikey Garcia," however, was a little lackluster compared to previous installments. We've already seen Robert Garcia-trained fighters struggle with weight on "2 Days," and Rios is more colorful than Mikey, so it mainly suffered from mining familiar territory in a less engaging way than the original… If you missed it, Matthew Swain wrote up Juan Diaz's latest fight for us. So far I've only seen the highlights package on HBO, so I leave the fuller assessment to Swain… I did catch the Carl Frampton show. Much as Provodnikov's performance against Alvarado elevated Bradley by comparison, Frampton's standing has improved as a result of beating Kiko Martinez before Martinez showed off how ferocious he was in his last bout. Frampton didn't beat anyone all that great this weekend but he did it in fine fashion and as such is proving himself a real threat at 122. For a full breakdown, Andrew Harrison has you covered… Sad news about Frankie Leal being in a coma. Reading the comments section there, it sounds like there were some worrying circumstances that led to his injury. [UPDATE: Leal has passed away. It's already been said but this should serve as a reminder of the price of the sport at the polar extremes and the need to keep fighter safety at the forefront, up to and including not being so critical when fighters quit under severe distress.]

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.