April 19, 2015

Ringside Report — Lucas Matthysse busts up and beats Ruslan Provodnikov

VERONA, NEW YORK — Believe it or not, not every fight in the world of boxing is fought for a worthless title belt or a whopping pile of cash. While it's true that the sport of boxing is a business, for Lucas "The Machine" Matthysse and Ruslan "The Siberian Rocky" Provodnikov, it's the hurt business. There was no junior welterweight championship at stake tonight at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY., and their collective paydays for the bout are comparable in amount to what Floyd "Money" Mayweather would need just to pay a very small percentage of his soon to be even more massive tax burden.

Matthysse and Provodnikov both fight for the gory-fisted glory that can can only be won when engaged in Fight of the Year type performances. This is who they really are - warriors. In 2013, Provodnikov (24-4, 17 KO's) battled American Timothy "Desert Storm" Bradley to a close decision loss in the "KO Digest Fight of the Year" and in 2014, the Argentine Matthysse (37-3, 34 KO's) stopped John Molina Jr. in the eleventh round of a knockdown, drag out, slobberknocker to win the highly coveted "Ring Magazine Fight of the Year" award. 

It's easy then to see why boxing fans were so excited to see these willing warriors go at it. Both boxers are best described as brawlers and neither man is the type to take a backwards step. The match-up immediately begged the question of what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. That is why anticipation was so high for their April 18 clash at the Turning Stone Casino in upstate New York, a somewhat curious location for a pairing that was preemptively being compared to the unforgettable drama witnessed a decade ago in three epic fights between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward. During fight week in Verona, the pre-fight promotion shifted to Hagler-Hearns comparisons due to the fact that it coincided with the thirtieth anniversary of their unforgettable April 15, 1985 WAR in Las Vegas. According to Derek Bonnett of SecondsOut.com, HBO's Jim Lampley was spotted on the afternoon of the fight at the nearby International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota comparing it to Brandon Rios against Mike Alvarado.

Matthysse wins the war on HBO
In the ring on Saturday night, Matthysse and Provodnikov lived up to all the expectations in front of a capacity crowd that was frenzied from the very beginning. Provodnikov came to the ring to the sounds of "Burning Heart" by Survivor and the tone was set for a Rocky night of boxing. Provodnikov did his part by blocking jabs with his face like the "Italian Stallion" against Apollo Creed. Matthysse couldn't miss with it and he jumped out to an early lead by keeping the fight in the middle of the ring where he controlled the pace with the jab and follow-up power punches. A clash of heads in the second resulted in a nasty gash over the left eye of Provodnikov and it bled all night. In the fourth, Provodnikov won his first round by pressing the action and landing his left hook. Matthysse took back control and won the next five rounds by being more accurate with his punches than the onrushing Provodnikov. In the tenth round, a mouse appeared under the right eye of Mattysse and Provodnikov closed the fight strong, winning the last three rounds by forcing his left hook into the fight and onto the face of Matthysse. In the eleventh, Mattysse was visibly hurt for the first time in the fight and it looked like a significant shift in tide was taking place.

Provodnikov's face tells the story of the night
In the end, it wasn't enough and Matthysse was awarded a majority decision win by scores of 114-114, 115-113, and 115-113. HBO's Harold Lederman scored the fight a draw, while KO Digest scored it 116-112 from press row in favor of Matthysse. At the post-fight press conference, Provodnikov apologized profusely to his fans for failing to win the fight and he wore a dejected look of disappointment on his badly bruised face. "It was a close fight, but the better man won. Send me a rematch contract and I'll sign it," said Provodnikov. 

Matthysse bluntly acknowledged to the media present that he was "hurt" in the eleventh round and "tired" in the last three frames and he also noted how difficult it was to slow Provodnikov down in the ring. "I knew he was going to keep coming forward and I prepared for that and I won the fight."

Images and Words by Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest