Editorials

Lucas Matthysse vs. Ruslan Provodnikov: Head-to-Toe Breakdown

John Garita/RBRBoxing

On Saturday, April 18, 2015, Lucas “The Machine” Matthysse (36-3, 34 KOs) will square off against “The Siberian Rocky,” Ruslan Provodnikov (24-3, 17 KOs) from the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, NY.

The bout–which will be aired live on HBO—is a can’t-miss action fight that has had boxing fans salivating since whispers surfaced that the fight was a possibility. Neither man knows the definition of retreat, so it’s safe to say that as soon as the bell rings to kick off the first round, you won’t want to move from your seat.

Provodnikov—who is coming off of a one-sided victory over way-past-his-prime former champion, Jose Luis Castillo—has been calling out big-name fighters such as Matthysse, Marcos Maidana and Manny Pacquiao for quite some time.

Provodnikov doesn’t fight for silly accolades like belts or an undefeated record. His only wish is to stand across the ring from someone with just as much heart and determination as he has, one that he doesn’t have to search for or cut off the ring against.

In Matthysse, Provodnikov may have found his Huckleberry.

Like Provodnikov, Matthysse doesn’t do well with boxers and cuties who give him angles—as evidenced by his losses against Zab Judah, Devon Alexander and even Danny Garcia. Instead, Matthysse is a heavy-hitting assassin who is most comfortable in a phone booth with his fists doing the dialing.

The big question come fight night will be, which man will be able to break the other’s will?

Scroll through as we take an in-depth look at the highly-anticipated Jr. Welterweight clash between Lucas Matthysse and Ruslan Provodnikov.

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Fight Info

Turning Stone
Photo by Showtime

Main Event: Lucas Matthysse vs. Ruslan Provodnikov

Where: Turning Stone Resort & Casino – Verona, NY

When: April 18, 2015

TV: HBO

While the StubHub Center has already played host to one classic fight for both Ruslan Provodnikov–against Timothy Bradley–and Lucas Matthysse–against John Molina, the venue was not available for the desired date.

Classic venue or not, we can expect nothing less than a fight-of-the-year candidate matchup when these two warriors finally get it on.

 

Regardless of my east coast bias, I really think StubHub would have been the best venue to host a battle of such epic proportions. But lets be honest, these two could fight in an alley and it would be epic.

The Fighters

Fight Gauge - Matthysse vs. Provodnikov
Photo edit by Fight Gauge/RBRBoxing

 Lucas MatthysseRuslan Provodnikov  
Record:36-3, 34 KOs 24-3, 17 KOs
Age:3231
Height:5′ 6½″5'6"
Reach:69"66"
Stance:OrthodoxOrthodox
Weight:140140
Hometown:Junín, Buenos Aires, ArgentinaBeryozovo, Russia
Rounds Boxed:154153

Stats courtesy of BoxRec.com

What You Need to Know

Ruslan Media Day5
Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank

Ruslan Provodnikov

After Ruslan Provodnikov lost his WBO title to Chris Algieri in controversial fashion at the Barclays Center in June of 2014, the look on his face said it all.

“Why the hell did I just fight this guy?”

Even if you saw Provodnikov winning the fight—which I happened to—Algieri was all wrong for the menacing Siberian. Algieri is a tall, rangy boxer who spent the majority of the fight finding ways not to engage.

But where the shifty Long Island native was the worst possible partner for Provodnikov, Lucas Matthysse is a match made in heaven.

Matthysse will not only allow Provodnikov to show off all of those immeasurable intangibles that fight fans love to argue about–heart, guts and determination–he will demand it.

Most boxing fanatics fall in love with fighters because of the way they perform, not necessarily if they win or lose a fight. Provodnikov is faced with a foe that—like him—wins even when he loses.

Provodnikov’s popularity sky rocketed after his narrow defeat against Timothy Bradley in 2013, and even if he had defeated “Desert Storm” that night, things probably wouldn’t have gotten much better for him.

Provodnikov’s last fight against Jose Luis Castillo proved absolutely nothing, so he’ll be hungry to remind fight fans that he has not lost his aggressive nature and interest in putting on wars.

 

Lucas Matthysse
Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime

Lucas Matthysse

In early 2013, Lucas Matthysse was one of the hottest fighters in boxing, tearing through tough and noteworthy opponents such as Humberto Soto and Lamont Peterson.

Matthysse–who at that time was being hailed by former Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer as the next Manny Pacquiao–landed the opportunity to face the legitimate Jr. Welterweight Champion, Danny Garcia, in September of 2013.

Things did not go as planned for the betting-favorite Argentine as he lost a close, but unanimous decision to Garcia.

After taking some time off, Matthysse returned to the ring against John Molina in what would become an instant classic–and 2014’s fight of the year according to Showtime’s fan vote as well as RBRBoxing’s staff vote.

It was in that bout that we really learned a lot about Matthysse. After being buzzed and dropped twice, Matthysse dug deep and came back to stop Molina by 11th round KO.

“The Machine” finished off 2014 by running over the previously unbeaten Roberto Ortiz to remind the world just how menacing his power truly is.

Calling the fight against Provodnikov a fan friendly one is an understatement. For die-hard fans, this matchup packs the excitement of the Super Bowl, your wedding and the birth of your first child all wrapped in one–or maybe that’s just me?

Matthysse has been vocal about his desire to win a title, and while this fight is not officially for a strap, the real title is a lifetime membership on the Gatti list. To many of us, that’s the highest honor you can bestow on a prize fighter.

Boxing Ability

Ruslan-Algieri - Ed Mulholland4
Photo by Ed Mulholland

Ruslan Provodnikov

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to back up to box effectively. But that doesn’t matter, because Ruslan Provodnikov is not a “boxer” by any stretch of the imagination.

Provodnikov is a murderer who relentlessly comes forward and doesn’t mind taking three punches to land one. The big question here is can he repeatedly withstand three Matthysse punches to land one of his own?

According to CompuBox stats, Provodnikov never reached the double digit mark in jabs landed in any round against Timothy Bradley or Chris Algieri. If he enters the fight against Matthysse simply looking to land power punches, he will be in trouble. Not only will he get tired from throwing, but he’ll also be slowed down by the accumulation of punches he takes.

Provodnikov has good head movement, but what he often does is bob-and-weave on his way inside, with his hands held low, looking to land a big hook. That’s when he tends to eat clean shots from his opponents which he always laughs off. Against a machine like Matthysse, that won’t be wise.

Even though brawling is his bread and butter, Provodnikov can’t forget to use his jab, especially if he’s the one pressing forward against Matthysse.

 

 

Lucas Matthysse - Esther Lin
Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime

Lucas Matthysse

Lucas Matthysse holds a mere half-inch height advantage over Ruslan Provodnikov, but his reach is three inches longer. Matthysse finds more use for his jab than Provodnikov, especially when he touches his opponent’s body, so the reach advantage may come in hand, especially if he needs to create some space (which he likely will).

Matthysse does a good job of getting off well-placed counter hooks, like the one he ended Mike Dallas’ night with in 2013.

Matthysse has improved his footwork over the last two years, but he can still look rigid at times as he tries to get into position to throw a punch.

Like any good brawler, what Matthysse lacks in boxing ability he makes up with the heat-seeking missiles in his gloves.

 

Advantage

Tie. As previously mentioned, neither man wants to have to chase anyone down or move backwards themselves. Close-quarter power punching is the name of each man’s game, which is why blood-thirsty fans can’t wait for April 18.

Although Matthysse can rely on a better jab, Provodnikov has a slight edge in footwork and gets to his spot more fluidly. But the fact is that we don’t expect either man to attempt to win on points or do a whole lot of backing up.

This will not be a ballet recital or a jab fest. It is going to be a test of might, and a showcase of who has the biggest cojones.

Power

mike-alvarado-v-ruslan-provodnikov-20131020-042353-449 Getty
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Ruslan Provodnikov

This is definitely the most exciting category to break down between Ruslan Provodnikov and Lucas Matthysse. A number of us at RBRBoxing have already spent days arguing about who we think is the more powerful of the two–and there is certainly an argument to be made for both men.

Provodnikov punches with lethal intent, but it can be argued that he doesn’t have the same one-punch pop that Matthysse does. Provodnikov does have a respectable KO ratio of 63 percent, but he looks to overwhelm his opponents with combinations over the duration of a fight as opposed to landing that one, well-placed shot.

A classic swarmer, Provodnikov is difficult to deal with because he is able to maintain his bobbing and weaving while throwing hard combinations from Round 1 to Round 12.

Perhaps the most powerful tool Provodnikov possesses has nothing to do with his punching power. Imagine hitting a guy with everything you have, including the kitchen sink, and still having him smiling in front of you after 12 rounds. That’s the power to endure and walk through hell, and it can be enough to make even the most toughest of fighters want to give up.

Lucas Matthysse AP/Jae C. Hong
Photo by AP/Jae

Lucas Matthysse

Lucas Matthysse is not shy about throwing–and landing–punches. According to CompuBox stats, Matthysse landed 275 of 573 total punches against John Molina, or 48 percent.

If you consider that Matthysse threw more than 64 punches in four of the 10 full rounds against Molina and landed better than 53 percent in each of those rounds, you can see why guys don’t tend to last long against The Machine.

Matthysse has given us plenty of examples of his devastating power including highlight-reel KOs of Humberto Soto, Mike Dallas, Lamont Peterson and Roberto Ortiz–to name a few.

Even in his loss to Danny Garcia, Matthysse landed with enough force to make Garcia clinch and ball tap him 1,000 times, which eventually lead to Tony Weeks deducting a point.

Matthysse is certainly more of a plodder than Provodnikov is, so it’ll be interesting to see if Ruslan can get his punches off on the inside in a quicker fashion and avoid Matthysse’s counter shots with good upper body movement.

 

Advantage

A slight edge goes to Matthysse because of his ability to end a fight with just one shot. Though against a tough-as-nails opponent like Provodnikov, Matthysse should be prepared to throw upwards of 60 punches per round and he shouldn’t be surprised if the fight lasts all 12 rounds.

Defense

Ruslan-Algieri - Ed Mulholland2
Photo by Ed Mulholland

Ruslan Provodnikov

Ruslan Provodnikov is not the type of fighter who worries too much about keeping his hands up. Provodnikov’s best defensive tools are his bobbing and weaving, as well as his rock-solid chin.

Provodnikov has a good bounce in his step–that he’s able to keep up throughout a 12 round fight–and is adept at getting great leverage on his punches in really close quarters. We can assume that Provodnikov will want to be in close with Matthysse, but he’ll have to be sharp with his head movement when avoiding Matthysse’s punches, especially the hook upstairs.

One thing Provodnikov has the tendency to do is come straight forward with his hands held low. Against Timothy Bradley and Chris Algieri–two fighters who aren’t big power punchers–Provodnikov could get away with this and he didn’t seem fazed as he ate numerous clean shots.

Against Matthysse, eating flush punches is just about the worst thing Provodnikov can do. Provodnikov needs to keep his hands up as much as possible and when he’s face-to-face with Matthysse–which is where he presumably wants to be–he needs to get his two-and-three punch combinations off before stepping to the side.

 

 

GarciaMatthysse_Hoganphotos1
Photo by Hogan Photos

Lucas Matthysse

Like Ruslan Provodnikov, Lucas Matthysse is not known for being a defensive wizard. He does have a tighter, higher guard than Provodnikov does–albeit with less head movement than the Russian stalker.

Whereas many fighters rely on their quick reflexes to evade punches, Matthysse mainly relies on his ability to take a good shot and still press forward. One of the things that makes this fight intriguing is that both men are there to be hit. So it’s not really a matter of who can find who, it’s more a question of who will break who down first.

We’ve seen Matthysse hurt and knocked down before, but he always comes back for more and against John Molina he got stronger and more active after being knocked down twice.

His conditioning and attention to defense will be key because Provodnikov is known for having a high motor. One habit Matthysse needs to break is his tendency to pull straight back after heavy exchanges.

 

Advantage

A slight edge again, but this one goes to Provodnikov. The Siberian Rocky has good head movement and can take just as much punishment–if not more–than Matthysse.

Provodnikov’s bounce, coupled with his ability to slip punches well on the inside are key. But, Provo will definitely have to keep his guard up and not square up when he’s on the attack if he is going to last against Matthysse.

Game Plan

Ruslan-Algieri - Ed Mulholland5
Photo by Ed Mulholland

Ruslan Provodnikov

Ruslan Provodnikov will want to bring the heat in every minute of each round. His idea of fun is backing his man up to the ropes and beating him to a bloody pulp. That has to be the game plan on April 18. Impose your will, because Lucas Matthysse is not used to a guy wanting to fight fire with fire.

One man that did want to bang with Matthysse was John Molina, who got the early jump on the notoriously slow-starting Argentine and had some success before being stopped.

Matthysse is good at working on the inside, but with his longer reach, he needs a bit more space to connect with heavy shots than does Provodnikov. Ruslan should focus on staying in close while throwing two and three punch combinations to the head and body.

If Provodnikov is able to turn Matthysse and keep him off balance, he may be able to frustrate the heavy-handed Argentine.

Provodnikov has to be prepared to take some hellacious shots from The Machine and still bring pressure of his own. If Provodnikov is able to keep up a high work rate, while smothering some of Matthysse’s offensive onslaught, he’ll have a better chance at breaking Matthysse down in the later rounds.

SHOSPORTS-Matthysse vs Ortiz-9765
Photo by Esther Lin

Lucas Matthysse

Like Ruslan Provodnikov, Lucas Matthysse is used to bringing the pain. There aren’t many people who can go the distance with Matthysse and most who try to go toe-to-toe with The Machine eventually break down.

Ruslan can take a shit load of punishment, but that shouldn’t deter Matthysse from doing what he normally does. Matthysse has a good chance at stopping one of the toughest SOB’s in the game by doing what he does best, throwing powerful punches in bunches.

At the top of Matthysse’s to-do list has to be working Provodnikov’s body, which will surely open up things up top.

Matthysse would be smart to try and create a bit of distance so he can put a lot into his overhand rights. When Provodnikov wants to lay in on the inside, Matthysse should create some space with his forearm–a la Floyd Mayweather–and bring that big right hand over the top.

Early Prediction

Lucas Matthysse Tom Casino
Photo by Tom Casino

It’s rare that you can say a matchup is a fight of the year candidate before it’s even happened, but that’s exactly what we’re looking at.

Like Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward 1 and Brandon Rios vs. Mike Alvarado 1, Ruslan Provodnikov vs. Lucas Matthysse plays to our most savage instincts. This battle has all of the ingredients to make for a ferocious and epic toe-to-toe clash.

One difference between these two warriors is that Provodnikov could care less about getting another crack at the WBO title he lost to Chris Algieri–or any other title for that matter–while Matthysse has made it clear that he craves a major belt.

Regardless of their motivation, the good thing is that both of these gladiators will come extremely focused to win and they’ll be willing to lay it all on the line.

Other than belts, the victor could claim the toughest man in the division title, and possibly the entire sport.

It is really hard to imagine either man getting stopped, but then again neither fighter has ever faced someone as bad ass and relentless as themselves. The beauty of a good ol’ fashioned fight is that it brings out things inside of us that we didn’t know were there. In other words, when Provodnikov and Matthysse get down to business, we may get to know them in a whole new way.

It is pretty safe to assume that a big determining factor in this fight will be which man can take the most punishment. But also, this fight is going to be about who can dish it out the best.

Matthysse’s more plentiful offensive tools and concussion-inducing, one-punch power will likely be the difference in this war of attrition. Provodnikov seems intent on proving that we can walk through anything with his hands held low and against Matthysse that will be disastrous.

Make no mistake about it, Provodnikov will have his moments, but if Matthysse focuses on the body early on in the fight, he’ll make it damn near impossible for Provodnikov to maintain his normal high work rate and come on strong late in the bout.

With a softened up mid section, Matthysse will find it easier to play target practice with Ruslan’s face and he’ll increase the likelihood of earning a victory–by decision or even KO.

Regardless of how this one ends, one thing we can be sure of is that there will be blood–and that’s all we really want.

Winner: Matthysse

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