Three big-name fights, aside from the obvious Mega-Mayweather bout, have taken over boxing headlines in recent months. First announced was the much anticipated return of Manny Pacquiao against a crowd-pleasing opponent. Pacquiao’s consecutive losses to Tim Bradley Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez affected his career prospects dramatically. For his return fight, he needed a fighter popular enough to be called relevant, while not risking too much against a master technician (Bradley) or an unorthodox counterpuncher (Marquez). In Brandon Rios, Pacquiao found the best of both worlds. Rios thrilled audiences in his back-to-back slugfests with Mike Alvarado. In the rematch, Rios suffered his first loss, making him both vulnerable and hungry for Pacquiao. Pacquiao’s recent decline has been just another entry in the limitless volumes of boxing’s revisionist history. Fans simultaneously claim the losses were flukes and that they anticipated Pacquiao’s loss of stature. If Pacquiao has indeed started his slow denouement to becoming “old” in the ring, he will certainly show it against the younger, hungrier Rios. If, on the other hand, Pacquiao’s talent is and was as prodigious as his fans would have us believe, that will be painfully apparent as well, as he takes on an opponent whose technical abilities are far less refined than any of Pacquiao’s recent opponents. One thing is for sure, it will be a hell of a fight.
The second fight to be announced was somewhat less exciting. Alexander Povetkin once again claims to be set to fight the king of the heavyweight division, Wladimir Klitschko. The fight has been cancelled before for various reasons, but this time, we’re told, the fight is on for sure. Time will tell, but in this case, there are no question marks on the conclusion to the fight. Klitschko greatly outshines Povetkin in every important category: size, skill, power, even speed. Povetkin’s success in the ring has been admirable, at least, but he’s also struggled against opponents who have never been considered elite. Klitschko, while he has certainly aged some, hasn’t shown any signs of diminishing skill in his recent reign of dominance. Rivaling the most celebrated heavyweight reigns of all time, Klitschko is truly the most dominant fighter at any weight. At least Povetkin will finally begin fading into the background after this fight. A much more competitive fight that has been discussed hypothetically for months would be Povetkin-Adamek. After his loss to Klitschko, Povetkin might be more interested in getting a name opponent who isn’t a foot taller than he is.
Finally, another fight was just recently made involving the key players who contributed to the signing of the Pacquiao-Rios fight. Ruslan Provodnikov will take on relentless brawler Mike Alvarado. Both fighters most recent bouts have been career-shortening wars. Provodnikov took on Tim Bradley Jr. who, though criticized for his approach to the Pacquiao fight, had risen to the top of the welterweight ranks with his win. For Bradley, it was the compulsion to prove his warrior spirit to his fans that led to the fireworks. For 12 rounds, Bradley embodied his moniker, Desert Storm, rushing headlong into Provodnikov’s offensive fury. Provodnikov was determined to outwork Bradley, and almost knocked him out several times, but came up short against Bradley’s indomitable spirit and bottomless reserve of endurance. Alvarado, on the other hand, knew what he was in for in his rematch with Brandon Rios. Both fighters giving an impressive performance, Alvarado managed to outbox Rios for enough of the fight to avoid taking major damage as he did in the first fight. Rios was close to another knockout, but wasn’t able to overwhelm Alvarado with his offense the way he had previously. Provodnikov-Alvarado will feature two fighters who have almost perfect offense and granite jaws. As surely as Klitschko-Povetkin will be a snoozefest, Provodnikov-Alvarado won’t be dull for a moment. Of all three, this is the fight, stylistically, that will prove most difficult to predict. Physically we know that Alvarado is much more agile than Provodnikov and probably conserves his energy better, but definitely doesn’t hit as hard. Alvarado is the purer boxer, but boxers are often stymied by an unorthodox style and relentless offense, both of which Provodnikov will bring in abundance. We saw something truly impressive, even in defeat, in his fight against Bradley, but will Provodnikov maintain that determination? I think we’ll know in the first few rounds whether Provodnikov can measure his offense, and whether Alvarado can mount an attack while avoiding his opponent’s.