Mr. ESPN is now Mr. HBO


Ruslan Provodnikov used to be thought of as a person who wouldn’t make it to the major networks. When Provodnikov fought Timothy Bradley, it was a “stay busy fight.” Now, Ruslan Provodnikov could be the first HBO fighter who could grab a cult following. After Saturday’s win against hometown kid and heavy favorite “Mile High” Mike Alvarado, Provodnikov is now the WBO light welterweight champion.

“The Siberian Rocky,” Provodnikov stated going into the fight that skill would not factor into the fight. It was his plan to break Alvarado’s will. Many thought that was foolishness since Mike was fighting at home and on paper had the ability to match Provodnikov’s power as well as box, but one thing appeared early on. Maybe Brandon Rios isn’t as good at cutting the ring off as Provodnikov. From the early onset he cut the ring off for Alvarado and simply did not allow him room to operate. On top of all of this Alvarado began to flirt with stances as he fought from orthodox and southpaw trying to confuse Provodnikov. In the end it seems he only confused himself and after seven rounds Alvarado was just barely on most media scorecards.

The eighth round was the fateful round as Alvarado hit the deck and could have been counted out as he was slow to get up at nine and did not appear to have his wits about him fully. Provodnikov, with time remaining, leveled Alvarado and sent him to the canvas one more time, but was unable to stop him. This round changed the discourse of the fight as Alvarado never seemed the same and although he knew he needed a knockout to win, fought on his back foot and never seemed to have the power needed to pull off a miracle in his hometown of Denver, Co.

In between the ninth and tenth rounds, Alvarado was asked if he wished to continue as a large hematoma had developed over his left eye making it nearly impossible for him to see. The fight was stopped as Alvarado was reluctant to continue, something some fans took to twitter to voice their displeasure about. Quite simply, Alvarado tried to box and simply couldn’t do it against the raw aggression of Provodnikov.

For Provodnikov this now puts him in a brave new world as he now holds the belt and also, in theory, can jump between networks as he is signed to Banner Promotions. Keywords, in theory, since it would be hard to believe HBO did not retain the rights to Provodnikov in some manner in case he did beat Alvarado, as he has given the network two great fights. Add to that Top Rank having an options on his next fight. Provodnikov now is in a position that could be  good or bad as he can dictate his future due to his belt, but also now has to deal with the fact that even as a champion he may not be the A-side in a fight since he is not with Golden Boy or Top Rank.

Nonetheless, Provodnikov has come a long ways from his days of fighting against brawlers on ESPN2 and now could be a man that HBO gets behind to put together fun fights. Provodnikov may not be the fighter of the year in 2013, but he should be in the running simply for the way he has catapulted his name from obscurity to a household familiar and how he is no longer just Mr. ESPN, but Mr. HBO.