by Kieran Mulvaney
Before Saturday night, Mike Alvarado and Ruslan Provodnikov had staked rival claims to the Fight of the Year. But now they have joint ownership in a new contender for that honor, following a battle that was every bit as absorbing, skillful and downright brutal as had been predicted, and which ended when Alvarado, no longer able to resist the Russian's relentless aggression, yielded in his corner at the end of the tenth round. With the victory, Provodnikov has a junior welterweight belt and a world of possibilities.
When we last saw Provodnikov (23-2 with 16 KOs), in mid-March, he nearly knocked out Timothy Bradley on more than one occasion before falling short in a points decision. Two weeks later, Alvarado (34-2, 23 KOs) boxed and fought his way to a revenge victory over Brandon Rios, who had issued him his first professional defeat the previous October. Both fights had been compelling, but given these two fighters' styles and commitment to combat, there was genuine optimism that this meeting could match them both. And with the very first action of the very first round, it began to live up to that billing.