By Leighton Ginn
With a fighter who is a destructive force like Ruslan Provodnikov, trainer Joel Diaz said what he just has to do is unleash the beast.
That’s what he plans to do tonight when Provodnikov faces John Molina in a light welterweight fight. The telecast begins at 6 p.m. PST on Showtime.
Some have projected the bout as a Fight of the Year candidate because both fighters like to mix it up at the center of the ring. And Diaz hopes Molina continues to move forward to make a thrilling fight.
“Molina is a guy who wants to fight, he stands in front of you and exchange with you. That will be the worst mistake he’ll make against a wrecking train,” Diaz said. “Ruslan has power in both hands. When I say power, I’m talking about devastating power. Molina has been hurt in previous fights. If he gets caught with a right or a left with bad intentions, the fight is over.”
Provodnikov, nicknamed the Siberian Rocky, has become one of the boxing’s most exciting attractions. His 2013 fight with Timothy Bradley was the Fight of the Year, and maybe the fight of the decade as he was able to give Bradley a concussion in the first round and knocked him down in the closing seconds before losing a unanimous decision.
“Ruslan has power in both hands. When I say power, I’m talking about devastating power.” Joel Diaz
Ironically, Diaz was working in Bradley’s corner in 2013.
Provodnikov has also had spectacular showdowns when he stopped Mike Alvarado and was in a war with Lucas Matthysse before falling in a majority decision.
However, it could be argued that Provodnikov needs to harness his aggression. He arguably punched himself out in the early rounds against Bradley, allowing him to dominate in the middle rounds.
Against Chris Algieri, Provodnikov knocked down his opponent two times in the opening round, but then didn’t adjust when Algieri changed his strategy.
Before Provodnikov’s fight in November, he decided to hire Diaz as his trainer. So far, they’re still learning about each other, but Diaz said they are making progress.
Diaz said working with Provodnikov can be tricky. He’s at his best when the lights are on for a big fight. In the gym, not so much.
“Ruslan is not about technique and strategy, that’s why in the gym he never looks good,” Diaz said. “In the gym, he’s less than average.”
But Diaz said he’s integrating small changes into Provodnikov, hoping the small changes can make a big difference for a fighter who has been in brutal battles the last few years.
“Ruslan is not about technique and strategy” Joel Diaz
And the two are getting comfortable, and are starting to understand each other better despite the language barrier.
“He feels like we’re part of the family,” Diaz said.
A victory tonight, and Provodnikov could open the door to big match ups.
Molina won’t be easy. Also an exciting fighter, he had a standout performance against Matthysse, who many considered the best in the weight class for a few years.
Molina knocked Matthysse down twice before getting knocked out in the 11th. It was the Fight of the Year for 2014.
Diaz thinks this could be a Fight of the Year candidate based on their styles.
“With Molina, there’s no way we’re telling him to hold back,” Diaz said. “Molina is dangerous on the outside because he has the reach and he knows how to use it. We tell him the thing with Molina is to get inside and to get close. That’s where we’re going to do some damage, on the inside.”