Ruslan Provodnikov eyes Russian legacy at Barclays Center

By Lem Satterfield

The past 13 months have been a whirlwind for Ruslan Provodnikov.

Last March, the man known as “The Siberian Rocky” scored a 12th-round knockdown en route to a razor-thin unanimous decision loss to then-WBO welterweight titleholder Tim Bradley in his 147-pound debut.

Last October, Provodnikov returned to the junior welteweight division, where he scored two eighth-round knockdowns on the way to a 10th-round stoppage that dethroned Mike Alvarado for the WBO 140-pound belt.

On June 14 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Provodnikov (23-2, 19 knockouts) will be the HBO-televised headliner with the first defense of his belt against Chris Algieri (19-0, 8 KOs), of Huntington, N.Y.

“Now that I’ve started full out training yesterday for this fight with [trainer] Freddie Roach and my strength and conditioning coach, I’m very motivated,” said Provodnikov. “I’m approaching this fight, not as a title defense, but just like before. I’m approaching it as if I’m the one who needs to get that title going into this fight.”

Provodnikov-Algieri was moved from its originally scheduled location at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, N.Y., reportedly due to interest from Russian Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

“For me, it’s an assumption that he [Prokhorov] knows about Ruslan. We assume that he knows about Ruslan,” said Vadim Kornilove, Provodnkov’s manager. “I don’t have any specific information as far as how he knows about Ruslan or how he found out about Ruslan…but there is a possibility that we will be meeting with him [Prokhorov] in the next week when we’re in New York.”

In order for Provodnikov-Algieri to happen at Barclays, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer — whose organization has an exclusive promotional deal with the venue — informed that Barclays CEO Brett Yormark requested his okay.

“I was asked by the Barclays Center people if I would be okay if they were to do the Provodnikov fight from Barclays Center and I said, ‘Absolutely, I have no problem with it.’ We have a deal with Barclays Center,” said Schaefer, who then referred to Provodnikov’s promoter, Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions.

“I have no problem with [Provodnikov’s promoter] Artie Pelullo going there with the Provodnikov. I know that HBO has been at Barclays Center before for a show that we did with them, and Barclays Center is one of the best venues in the world, and I think that it provides a terrific experience for people who can watch boxing from Barclays Center, so I have no problem with it.”

In addition to Algieri, who was last in the ring for a unanimous decision over Emmanuel Taylor in February, there will be a co-main featuring British junior middleweight contender Brian Rose (25-1, 7 KOs) and WBO titleholder Demetrius Andrade (20-0, 13 KOs), according to Pelullo.

The undercard will feature unbeaten light heavyweight Seanie Monagahan (21-0, 14 KOs) of Long Beach, N.Y., against an opponent to be determined, as well as Brooklyn middleweight Simeon Hardy (11-0, 8 KOs) and female junior featherweight Heather Hardy (9-0, 2 KOs), who are not related.

“I’m working with Brett Yormark, and it’s been a very pleasant experience. We’re looking forward to being at Barclays Center,” said Pelullo, to “I appreciate Golden Boy giving their blessing for us to bring this mega-event to an arena where they have an exclusive deal. It was very gracious of them not to stand in the way of this event taking place.”

Barry Baum, executive vice president and chief communications officer for Barclays Center, said Yorkmark was not availble for comment until Wednesday, the day of the press conference at the venue’s Geico Atrium touting the bout.

“This is a great honor to me, and the last year has been a great success for me,” said Provodnikov. “I must be doing something right if I’m getting the respect and appreciation of people like that.”

Kornilov said Provodnikov ranks as the most popular among his current crop of Slavic compatriots, including WBA middleweight beltholder Gennady Golovkin, WBO light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev and and IBF featherweight counterpart Evgeny Gradovich.

“There’s been numerous polls and ratings on major Russian internet websites where Ruslan came out as the top-rated Russian fighter, and I think that’s because of his style and personality. Ruslan comes across as a very humble guy who fights with a lot of heart and who has had a difficult upbringing, and that’s how he has become what he has become,” said Kornilov.

“I think that this is a very important time in Ruslan’s career where very influential people from Russia are finding out about him and expressing interest in him and in his career, and I think that this will be an important factor, not only for Ruslan, but also, the country of Russia overall.”

In addition, the New York City metropolitan area continues to be, by far, the leading gateway for Russian immigrants legally admitted into the United States.

“It the biggest Russian community in all of the United States,” said Kornilov. “Most Russian people live in that area.”

Provodnikov got a taste of his popularity among his countrymen in The Big Apple just over a year ago on April 11 while in attendance at the Boxing Writers’ Association of America awards dinner in New York.

“We visited there before when he went to different events like the writers’ awards dinner last year,” said Kornilov of an event which honored Bradley-Provodnikov as the “Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier Fight of the Year” for 2013 on May 1 in Las Vegas. “There were a lot of Russian people who expressed their support, and people who were interested in meeting Ruslan. So we know that there are a lot of fans there for him.”

Like Puerto Rican three-division titlewinner Miguel Cotto at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Provodnikov is hopeful that he can establishing a permanent following at Barclays.

“I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of fans out there in New York, because right after the Bradley fight, when we were there for the dinner, there were a lot of people there to greet me and they showed me around the town. There were a lot of people who were interested in seeing me. I think that, now, a year later, things have changed. I’m a world champion, so I think that there are even more fans out there now,” said Provodnikov.

“I’m pretty sure that we’re going to get a lot of people in that arena. I’m thinking somewhere more than 8,000 people. I think that this will be the fight that is an example of the fans that I have and it will show my popularity. I’m looking for this to be my lucky opportunity to perform well and to set the stage for further bigger fights in that arena. I’m hoping that I will be one of the exclusive fighters that will be performing at Barclays in the future.”

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Source: The Ring