Ruslan Provodnikov’s recent near-upset against Timothy Bradley further highlighted the prevailing impact of Eastern European and Central Asian fighters in the sport. Once considered barren areas for professional boxing, Eastern Europe and Central Asia are now hotbeds of talent and emerging titleholders.
Russia native Kostya Tszyu might have blazed the trail after his amateur world championship in 1991. Tszyu became one of the first decorated boxers from the former Soviet Union and its breakaway republics that made the successful transition to professional boxing.
Tszyu, who retired seven years ago after a dominant run as junior-lightweight champion from the mid-1990s through early 2000s, now has a growing company of fellow Eastern European-Central Asian success stories. Of the current world champions recognized by the four major sanctioning bodies, eight originate from the region.
Ukraine-born brothers Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko have monopolized the heavyweight belts the past three years and are linked to titles for nearly a decade. Although it might displease the American fight public, the Klitschkos epitomize the modern day heavyweight division.
Any possible American heavyweight presence once the Klitschkos retire could be thwarted by Russia’s Alexander Povetkin. Unbeaten in his 25 fights, Povetkin is viewed by many in the media, especially in Europe, as the next heavyweight ruler.
The Central Asia country of Kazakhstan features one of boxing’s top middleweights. Gennady Golovkin (26-0, 23 KOs) holds an alphabet soup of title and has won his first 26 fights. Only three of Golovkin’s opponents have gone the distance.
Golovkin successfully defended his title with a third-round knockout win over Nobuhiro Ishida on Saturday in Monte Carlo. But he fought his two previous bouts in the United States, an obvious move to expand Golovkin’s profile. Both bouts also were televised by HBO.
With the added exposure and convincing wins, Golovkin now can be considered a potential opponent of fellow middleweight titleholder Sergio Martinez, one of the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighters.
When Provodnikov was tabbed as Bradley’s opponent for their bout on March16, the native of Russia didn’t appear on many experts’ list of top welterweights. Provodnikov altered that opinion following his relentless performance against Bradley, who survived and retained his title with a close unanimous decision victory.
Provodnikov is in position for additional title opportunities and worthy of discussion among the best in the 147-pound class, giving the Eastern Europe-Central Asia corridor another rising boxer.
Mike Alvarado capitalized on his rematch opportunity.
Five months after losing a seventh-round knockout against Brandon Rios in one of the most exciting fights of 2012, Alvarado evened the score Saturday night in Las Vegas. Alvarado won a close unanimous decision against Rios in a similarly thrilling bout.
As in their first match, Alvarado (34-1) and Rios (31-1-1) traded at a furious pace throughout the 12-round distance. But Alvarado landed the more telling shots in the second half of the junior-welterweight bout and squeaked out a winning verdict of 115-113 on two judges’ scorecards and 114-113 on the third.
After the bout, Alvarado and Rios immediately welcomed the idea of a tie-breaking third bout.
“Brandon gave me a shot to redeem myself,” Alvarado said. “I’ll give him the trilogy.”
• Miami resident Breidis Prescott lost a lopsided decision to Terence Crawford on the Alvarado-Rios undercard. All three judges scored the 10-round junior-welterweight bout for Crawford 100-90, 99-91 and 97-93.
• Miami resident Humberto Savigne scored a fourth-round technical knockout victory over previously unbeaten Jackson Junior on Friday night in Verona, N.Y.
Savigne (11-1, 8 KOs) dropped Junior in the second round and twice in the fourth. Junior (14-1) looked disoriented after his third knockdown, and referee Mark Nelson stopped the light-heavyweight fight at 2:27 of the round.