Chris Algieri provided one of the shocks of the year last night as he battled from the brink of defeat to claim an astonishing split decision win over Ruslan Provodnikov to take his WBO light-welterweight title.
By the end of the contest the American looked a mess, like most who share a ring with the Russian, with his right eye gruesomely swollen shut. But that didn't phase him as he had just won his first world title.
The 30-year-old showed tremendous heart and bravery to come back from two first round knockdowns and claim a victory that extended his unbeaten record to 20 fights.
Two judges scored the bout 114-112 for Algieri, while the third scored it for Provodnikov, 117-109. It was controversial considering the punishment that the home-town fighter took during the bout, especially with most spectators stating that they had the Russian as their winner.
But that won’t bother the Long Island fighter, he has caused one of the biggest upsets of the year and announced himself to the world of boxing in quite dramatic fashion by defeating the popular Provodnikov.
"It was a great fight. The big thing was getting out of the first round to start with," said Algieri, who was facing by far his most notable opponent.
"He hit me with a pretty good shot. I took a knee the second time because my lip was numb, I wanted to clear my head and see how my eye was. It wasn't anything he hit me with.
"The shots in the first round were the most powerful but they were few and far between."
In Provodnikov’s first defence of the belt that he won against Mike Alvarado last year, he looked to go after his opponent and finish the bout at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn quickly and devastatingly.
Algieri was first put down by a trademark left-hook from the Russian that landed with aplomb, which was followed up by a powerful right to the body, leaving the challenger stunned and having to take a knee to compose himself.
And compose himself he did, getting back to his feet and continuing the bout in an assured fashion.
Provodnikov was aggressive from the first minute to the last and it was clear that he wanted to finish the fight with a knockout.
However, Algieri had other ideas. The American began to find his feet after that frantic first round and adjusted to the power that was continuously being thrown his way.
His hand and foot speed proved to be troubling for Provodnikov, whose guard was constantly being breached, although it wasn't apparent that the shots were causing any significant damage.
The ‘Siberian Rocky’ was going for the blockbuster punch to finish the fight but was losing rounds in the process as he was getting cleverly picked off by Algieri.
Provodnikov's punches were harder and delivered more damage, but Algieri was landing more shots and out-boxing him, which made it a difficult one to score.
Algieri said the eye, as bad as it looked, did not become a serious problem for his vision until the last few rounds.
"I could see pretty well until the eighth round but by the time we hit round 12, I was blind in that eye," Algieri said. "But I was able to anticipate his left hook throughout the fight. I was able to figure out his rhythm. That was the key to my success."
Provodnikov, one of boxing's most exciting fighters, is a straight brawler. It was that style that made him the star of the 2013 fight of the year, a close decision loss to the then-welterweight title holder Timothy Bradley.
However, Algieri’s style was not to stand and trade with the Russian, but to keep him at arms-length and ensure that he out-boxed him, which frustrated Provodnikov.
"I felt like after the knockdown I was trying to land the big punch," Provodnikov said. "I have to admit, runners are not my style. I said before it's just not my style. He just ran and touched me. He just jabbed and touched me.
"This is the worst style for me. I like guys who are in front of me and fighting me."
In fairness to Provodnikov he stuck to his pre-fight promise to pursue Algieri and he made it an exciting fight, for which he was proud.
"I gave a very exciting fight and I think the fans were not sleeping in their seats," he added. "I did what I promised."
It was a shocking win for the underdog and the defeat has all but ended Provodnikov’s chances of challenging Manny Pacquiao for the welterweight title in November.
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