“An-a-a-a and put some, some extra m-m-oot-zarella on that m*&^%f8765er too.”
Said a stuttering, serious, loud “Public Enemy” music playing and funny-as-hell, Radio Raheem.
DO THE RIGHT THING, Spike Lee circa 1989
There he was, standing there with his mom inside the ring, after an exhilarating 10th round knockout win over Mike Alvarado (who was as classy as anyone can be after the fight- and shame on anyone who thought he quit) to capture the WBO super lightweight championship this past Saturday night. His response to HBO’s Max Kellerman was classic.
Appearing understandably euphoric after the biggest win and achievement of his life, “Provo” (well, that’s what I call him anyway) got serious. Kellerman, who sometimes (and somehow) revisits the ghost of Larry Merchant’s past, started asking him about his fight options and the future in a pesky manner.
“Look I’m tired, I don’t feel like talking about that right now”, said Ruslan Provodnikov, while managing to sound and look cool through the interpreter. “I just won a championship let me enjoy it.”
Max immediately put on a face that read: “Ooooo...K”
It was the “I must break- Ivan Drago your ass!” look on his face and tone that had my stomach in a knot of laughter. He’s rare- in demeanor and presentation, both in and out of the ring, and will juxtaposition himself between hot and cold, or pleasure and pain.
And there’s a reason for that.
Hailing from Berezovo, Siberia, you have to imagine for a moment the prospect of facing and growing up in a nearly year round brutal cold (how ‘bout -60 degree temperatures on a typical winter day). Try having to take 10 hour journeys to get to Moscow from this remote and unforgiving part of the world, only to get to a gym to engage in punishment. I didn’t see father around the other night, but I’ll be damned if it might not be Ivan Drago (who I could see wrestling a Killer Whale in that same winter), because Ruslan is otherworldy tough.
It doesn’t happen like this often, but not only was I able to forecast how this fight would unfold and play out, I also accurately predicted the round it would end in Provodnikov’s favor.
He attacks in blunt force ways with an easy darkness and isn’t nuanced technically. He doesn’t care. He’s a hybrid blend of Drago, his best friend Rocky Balboa, and an angry MMA fighter forced to box but DYING to break all of the rules and “YOU”. He earned this reputation in earnest after spirited duels with Manny Pacquiao, beginning in late 2011 and through his 2012 training camp for Timothy Bradley. So impressed was Roach with Provodnikov and his freakish strength, that he officially added him on to his roster of fighters. After HBO initially balked at the suggestion of him as an opponent for Bradley, they eventually agreed, and we’re all glad they did (except Bradley, who still sees stars every time he sees a picture of Provodnikov).
Arguably 2013’s Fighter of The Year, the new WBO super lightweight champion is in line for a huge piece of the pie. Like Radio Raheem did so eloquently in his own hood way, Ruslan can basically demand some extra mozzarella, provolone, or anything else he wants on his pie. Because either way you slice it- he’s getting some extra cheese. A bout with Brandon Rios or Marcos Maidana would be to die for. Adrien Broner would be in for the longest night of his entire life with “Provo”, and what a war he’d have with Lucas Matthysse. A Danny Garcia bout is also enticing, as would one be with Amir Khan. He could be a very dangerous fight for a soon to be geriatric Juan Manuel Marquez, and would represent the same for Floyd Mayweather or Bradley in a return bout.
Of course, many of these bouts are or would be hampered by the continued drama and cat fighting between Showtime and HBO, and Top Rank and Golden Boy. But if Boxing 2013 has taught us anything, it’s that massive fan interest is still there if they can get the fights that they want. To ride on this momentum, they are going to have to act like responsible adults at some point, and put business ahead of ego.
One thing’s for certain, after becoming a world champion and a bona-fide action star under HBO, Ruslan Provodnikov’s future is now as bright as the iron snow he labored through to reach the pinnacle. No longer a mere sparring partner, he’s pounded his way into history, and is sure to thrill us all again in the near future.
Congratulations champ- you earned it, and we’re proud of you.