- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Interim junior welterweight titlist Mike Alvarado and contender Ruslan Provodnikov have been regular participants in action-packed fights. In fact, each of their bouts so far in 2013, just a couple of weeks apart, were both fiercely contested barnburners that immediately jumped to the forefront for fight of the year honors.
Now Alvarado and Provodnikov are set to fight each other in a fight most expect will take its place among the top contenders for fight of the year.
Alvarado will defend his belt against Russia's Provodnikov on Oct. 19 (HBO) at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colo., right outside of Alvarado's hometown of Denver, after he came to terms with promoter Top Rank on Thursday. Provodnikov and his promoter, Artie Pelullo of Banner Promotions, finalized their end of the deal a couple of weeks ago.
"I'm very happy this fight is finally happening," Provodnikov told ESPN.com through translator and manager Vadim Kornilov. "I've been waiting for this for a long time and I think will be an unforgettable fight for the fans."
If the fight is anything like their previous bouts, Alvarado-Provodnikov will be unforgettable.
On March 16, Provodnikov (22-2, 15 KOs), 29, lost a close fight challenging welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. in Carson, Calif. Although Provodnikov lost the decision, he badly hurt Bradley and nearly knocked him out in the first and second rounds, and then knocked him down in the 12th round, in what was a helacious slugfest.
Two weeks later in Las Vegas, Alvarado (34-1, 23 KOs), 33, exacted revenge against Brandon Rios, winning an epic battle by unanimous decision and the vacant interim 140-pound belt. Rios had stopped Alvarado in the seventh round in their previous fight in October in one of the most action-packed brawls of 2012.
"We finally concluded the negotiation with Mike and everybody is happy," Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said. "I don't think there's going to be a lot of defense in this fight. We had to go through the whole process with Mike but we got it done [Thursday) morning and we're as excited about the fight as any boxing fan.
"This is clearly one of the best fights we could provide to the public. These two guys know how to fight one way. They don't take a backward step and their fights are always exciting."
Provodnikov said he had no issue with going to Alvarado's hometown to face him.
"I'm very used to that," Provodnikov said. "The only thing we have to make sure of is that I am prepared well to fight in the altitude and make sure it does not affect me. I think this is going to be one of the greatest fights. Alvarado is the perfect style that I really like to fight."
Pelullo said part of his agreement with Top Rank calls for the judges and referee to be neutral, not from Colorado.
Provodnikov said he watched both of Alvarado's slugfests with Rios and had designs on fighting either of them. Rios, despite losing the rematch to Alvarado, landed a Nov. 23 fight with Manny Pacquiao.
That left Provodnikov to fight Alvarado in a fight that HBO executives exerted significant pressure on Top Rank to make.
"As soon as I saw the first fight between Alvarado and Rios, I wanted to fight either of these guys," Provodnikov said. "I want to win a world title but I also want to do it for the fans. I would never avoid any fighter. This will be one of the toughest fights for me and for Alvarado. But he is the perfect opponent. It can be one of the greatest fights ever. It can be the fight of the year."
Said Henry Delgado, Alvarado's trainer and manager: "Provodnikov is a very capable opponent and just like Mike, he puts on exciting fights. You have two immovable objects, so it will come down to which guy can make the adjustments. They both have heart, so it will be who can make the better adjustments and be smart. Provodnikov is a tough guy, so you have to stay busy. We will do that and we will outwork him. That's the key."
Provodnikov will train with Freddie Roach at his Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif., until early October. Then, when Roach goes to Orlando, Fla., to be with one of his other fighters, junior middleweight star Miguel Cotto, for his Oct. 5 fight, Provodnikov and an assistant trainer will go to Denver for the final two weeks of preparation at altitude.
Once Cotto's fight is over, Roach will head to the Philippines to train Pacquiao for the Rios fight, but Kornilov said Roach would come back to the United States to work Provodnikov's corner on fight night.
Pelullo said Provodnikov would arrive in Los Angeles on Monday to begin training.
"I'm very excited about the fight and glad that [Top Rank chairman Bob Arum] was able to close the deal with Alvarado," Pelullo said. "I think it's a great fight for boxing. It's what we need. Ruslan was very close to beating Bradley. We think he can win the fight. We know it's going to be an exciting fight no matter what happens."
Mike Alvarado will defend his belt against Ruslan Provodnikov on Oct. 19 (HBO) at the 1st Bank Center in Alvarado's hometown of Denver after he came to terms with promoter Top Rank on Thursday.