Monday, June 16, 2014

Underdog Chris Algieri Now World Champion

Throughout all of sports a common storyline that you will hear discussed among both fans and experts is whether or not an underdog can defeat a heavy favorite. This scenario is quite common in the world of Boxing as it is sometimes referred to as a sport where one should expect the unexpected. The classic scenario of an underdog going against a heavy favorite took place on June 14th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York when WBO Jr. Welterweight champion Ruslan Provodnikov made the first defense of his world title against undefeated WBO  number thirteen rated contender Chris Algieri.

It is somewhat ironic that it was not all too long ago when it was Provodnikov who was considered an underdog against both former WBO Welterweight champion Timothy Bradley and former WBO Jr. Welterweight champion Mike Alvarado. Even though Provodnikov lost a close decision in a hard-fought battle against Bradley in March of last year, the “Game” and determined effort he showed in what was a fight of the year candidate turned Provodnikov from an underdog to one of the sport’s rising stars.

Provodnikov was able to rebound and win the WBO Jr. Welterweight world championship when he stopped Mike Alvarado in ten rounds last October. Provodnikov’s crowd pleasing pressure style is certainly going to help him secure lucrative fights with several big names in either the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight or 147lb. Welterweight divisions. It goes without saying however, that even the best fighters can have an off night from time to time. This would be the case for Provodnikov when he entered the ring to face Chris Algieri.

Algieri, who entered the fight undefeated in nineteen professional fights as a boxer also entered as a former two-division world champion in Kickboxing, having won world titles in both the Welterweight and Jr. Middleweight Kickboxing divisions. Despite having not lost a fight in either sport, Algieri was considered an underdog going into his fight against Provodnikov. Algieri however, did have the kind of lateral movement, defense and hand speed that I felt could give Provodnikov trouble if Algieri were allowed to make use of those attributes.

Despite coming into the fight as an underdog, Algieri did have solid wins against former world title challenger Mike Arnaoutis and top contender Emmanuel Taylor in his career as a boxer. Based on this and Algieri’s Boxing ability, I did not feel that this would be as easy a fight for Provodnikov as some might have felt.

It was not surprising to see Provodnikov begin the fight being aggressive and looking to impose his will on the challenger. Although I felt that this could be a difficult fight for the champion Provodnikov, I wondered whether Provodnikov starting the fight at such a quick pace would force Algieri into Provodnikov’s kind of fight, and not a fight that is fought at a more tactical pace where the challenger would theoretically have an advantage. The contest seemed as though it may have a quick ending as Provodnikov knocked Algieri down in the first round with a left hook, which caused severe swelling of Algieri’s right eye. Provodnikov would score a second knockdown with a right hand seconds later.

Even though it is not an impossible task for a fighter to come back from a deficit after suffering two knockdowns in one round, what I felt might have caused the fight to be stopped was the condition of the swelling of Chris Algieri’s right eye. In some ways the condition of Algieri’s eye reminded me somewhat of how the late great Arturo Gatti’s eyes would swell up sometimes quickly during the course of a fight.

Although suffering the first knockdowns of his career, Algieri did not seem rattled by what happened in the first round and did not allow the condition of his right eye to change his fight plan. As the rounds went on it was clear that Provodnikov landed the harder punches. It was also clear however, that as the rounds went on the challenger began to implement his fight plan using lateral movement to be an elusive target and looking to get his offense off first before Provodnikov could get set to throw his punches.

In close fights it can be an interesting conundrum for fans who watch a fight as well as experts and more importantly the judges scoring a fight to determine who has an edge. As I have said many times over the years when it comes to close fights it will often boil down to what a judge prefers in their own individual criteria in how they score a fight based on clean punching, effective aggressiveness, ring generalship, and defense.

The challenger was the busier of the two fighters throughout much of this fight throwing combinations and remaining an elusive target. It was clear as the rounds continued that Algieri was taking control.

The challenge for judges who are charged with the task of scoring fights like this is to determine whether the fighter throwing and landing more punches in volume is winning rounds over a fighter who may be out landed, but is aggressive and when he does land is doing more damage. Chris Algieri’s Boxing skills were on full display in this fight and the only questions I had as the rounds went on were whether or not his right eye would be too badly damaged and would cause the referee and/or doctor to stop the fight. Also, if Algieri were to go the distance would the two knockdowns he suffered in the first round be the deciding factor if he were to lose the fight via decision.

Provodnikov’s inability to limit Algieri’s movement where he could get in position to land more frequently was the story of the fight my opinion. Although at the end of the twelve round championship bout I felt that Algieri had done enough to win the fight as I scored it 114-112 in his favor, I was not surprised by the difference in scoring of the three official judges.

Judge Max DeLuca scored the fight 117-109 in favor of Provodnikov. This was overruled by Judges Don Trella and Tom Schreck who scored the fight 114-112 in favor of Chris Algieri giving Algieri the win and the WBO Jr. Welterweight world championship. This was certainly not an easy fight to score and even though Judge Max DeLuca had Provodnikov winning this fight by a wide margin, it is understandable how DeLuca could have come up with a score of 117-109, which was the same score as HBO’s unofficial judge Steve Weisfeld. It is important to remember that there were two knockdowns in the first round against Algieri, which gave Provodnikov the round by a score of 10-7, which likely contributed to the scorecard of Deluca.

Although there is likely a difference of opinion as to who won this fight, I do not believe that the outcome of this fight was controversial in the sense that the opinion of the three official judges did not differ greatly with the opinion of both fans and experts as to who won the fight. Instead, I believe this fight was simply one fighter’s aggression against another fighter’s technique and ability to adapt. Even though there may be a difference of opinion as to who won a close fight, there was no controversy.

As for what is next for the new champion Chris Algieri and the former champion Ruslan Provodnikov, I believe both fighters have several options open to them including a potential rematch. For Provodnikov, the loss to Algieri will probably not change his standing as a top fighter in the Jr. Welterweight division and will likely not damage his ability to secure lucrative opportunities in either the Jr. Welterweight or Welterweight divisions. This loss will only help Provodnikov in the long run and should be viewed as a setback.

For the new champion Chris Algieri, he has gone from an underdog to a world champion. Algieri was able to not only overcome adversity, but also showed his mettle in this fight. His performance will likely establish him as a rising star in the sport. Whatever the future might hold, Chris Algieri has established himself as a force to be reckoned with.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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