Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mike Alvarado vs. Ruslan Provodnikov

 Mike Alvarado vs. Ruslan Provodnikov, 12 rounds, junior welterweight

Juan Diaz vs. Juan Santiago, 10 rounds, lightweight

Donovan Dennis vs. Hugo Arceo, 6 rounds, heavyweight

Starling Cordero vs. Abraham Rubio, 6 rounds, bantamweight

Manuel Lopez vs. Julio Chavez, 6 rounds, junior welterweight

Vitor Jones de Oliveira vs. Martin Quesada, 4 rounds, junior lightweight

Daniel Calzada vs. Carlos Marquez, 6 rounds, welterweight

Denver's Mike Alvarado, in three of his past four fights, brawled his way through slugfests. In boxing parlance, they're called "phone booth" fights. Two guys trading haymakers in the center of the ring.

It earned Alvarado a dangerous reputation as an entertaining all-or-nothing fighter living on the edge.

But then, in March, he turned that tag around. Alvarado went from brawler to boxer and out-punched Brandon Rios to win the World Boxing Organization junior welterweight title.

On Saturday night, Alvarado returns to the ring with his reputation again on the line. He will go against powerful Russian slugger Ruslan Provodnikov at the FirstBank Center in Broomfield to defend his title. The fight, Alvarado's first championship defense and first hometown fight since 2011, airs on HBO.

It's a matchup that has boxing fans drooling over the potential for action. Can Alvarado, seemingly a slugger at heart, again be a technical whiz and keep Provodnikov away? Or will the fight evolve into an all-out brawl?

"The good news for Alvarado is he's a very good boxer," said HBO analyst Max Kellerman, who will call color commentary. "Provodnikov's challenge is ... can he force matters into a brawl and change the fight even when Alvarado doesn't want to slug?"

Between them, Alvarado (34-1, 23 knockouts) and Provodnikov (22-2, 15 KOs) have each knocked out nearly 70 percent of their opponents. But both are coming off decisions — Alvarado won unanimously over Rios at 140 pounds, and Provodnikov lost a tough bout against Tim Bradley at 147 pounds.

"Provodnikov's quality as a tough guy is outstanding," Kellerman said. "Alvarado should slug only when he has to. But even then, Alvarado is a bad dude. ... He might be able to slug with Provodnikov — and there will be moments of slugging."

Against Rios, Alvarado got tricky. Coming out of clinches, he switched to a southpaw stance, and he jabbed going forward and back. It was a tactic meant to frustrate and confuse Rios, who prefers fighting within breathing distance.

Provodnikov also wants to lure Alvarado into the phone booth. In the run up to the fight, he seemed intent on goading Alvarado into trading big blows.

"Mike Alvarado, he's a brawler like I am," Provodnikov said. "I have to fight him in a brawl. I have to be much more coldblooded and break him down."

But Alvarado will have a decided size advantage — he's 3 inches taller with a a 3½-inch reach advantage. Alvarado knows it's on him to keep the danger of Provodnikov's knockout power away.

"He's going to fight how he knows how. That's who he is," Alvarado said. "He's dangerous. It only takes one shot. I could be kicking his butt every minute of the fight right up to the last round, but if he gets one shot in, then he can get the fight."

Provodnikov said he developed a game plan with his trainer, Freddie Roach, at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles.

"I know what to expect from Alvarado. Freddie told me, 'You're better than him. And you're going to be world champion,'" Provodnikov said.

Alvarado faced an added challenge Friday when he stepped on the scales one pound too heavy at an official weigh-in. He eventually returned, nearly two hours later, to weigh in just under the limit at 139.8 pounds, same as Provodnikov.

"This fight has 'war' written all over it, and there's a good chance that this fight will turn into that," Alvarado said. "I have a good game plan and I know how I'm going to box to win this fight. But you never know."

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