- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Former junior welterweight titlist Ruslan Provodnikov -- “The Siberian Rocky” -- faces what most expect will be a brutal slugfest and possible fight of the year against “The Machine” Lucas Matthysse when they meet on Saturday night (HBO, 9:45 ET/PT).
But when Provodnikov steps into the ring he will be without his Hall of Fame trainer, Freddie Roach. The fight with Matthysse (36-3, 34 KOs) is at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York, and Roach will remain at his Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, California, on the other side of the country.
The reason is because Roach cannot miss important days of training Manny Pacquiao, who is deep in camp for his long-awaited showdown with Floyd Mayweather on May 2.
Instead of Roach being at the fight Saturday, Marvin Somodio, his assistant, will run the corner on fight night and try to make sure Provodnikov follows the game plan outlined by Roach.
Some fighters would have a problem with the situation, but not Provodnikov (27-3, 17 KOs), who trained daily with Roach in preparation for the 12-round bout.
“Everything is all right,” Provodnikov said through manager and translator Vadim Kornilov. “This is not the first time that Freddie was not in the corner. For me what's important is that Freddie is with me throughout the camp and we're working together as a team to come up with the right strategy and, you know, get ready for this fight. It's not a big deal.”
Roach also was not in the corner for Provodnikov’s last fight because of other obligations, but that was the expected walkover victory as Provodnikov thrashed shot former lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo in a fifth-round knockout in Moscow in November.
Somodio also ran the corner that night, so Provodnikov is comfortable with him.
“Marvin Somodio is Freddie's right-hand guy and is going to be there for me, and I know that Marvin knows what I need to do in the ring,” Provodnikov said. “And that's all that's important.”
Of course, Roach would love to be with his fighter, but given the stakes in Mayweather-Pacquiao and what would be a cross-country trip and a few days away, he could not make the schedule work. But Roach said Provodnikov will be fine in Somodio’s hands.
“The Pacquiao fight is very important right now, and Ruslan is very important also. I work with him every day in the gym,” Roach said. “He and Marvin have a good rapport together. Marvin knows what to do. He's a very good trainer. They understand what I want. ... Ruslan will still fight his fight and Marvin will make the adjustments along the way.
“There will be no problem whatsoever. It's not the first or last time this has happened in my life.”
When Ruslan Provodnikov steps into the ring Saturday to face Lucas Matthysse, he will be without his Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach.