Monday, June 24, 2024  |


The Travelin’ Man returns to Verona…again-part II

Fighters Network
Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Photo by Naoki Fukuda


Please click here for part one.


Saturday, April 18 (continued): For most of the 12 action-packed rounds, “The Machine” ran on all cylinders. But because “The Siberian Rocky” lived up to his namesake, he stole the show – and very nearly the decision.

As they awaited the scores of Don Ackerman, Glenn Feldman and John McKaie, their visages couldn’t have been more different. Provodnikov’s bruised and sliced-up face looked like it had been run over by an 18-wheeler after a few rounds with a shredder, while Matthysse’s showed some mild bruising around the right eye. But what couldn’t be seen was the exhaustion and mental torture Provodnikov endured during his inspirational stretch drive, a drive that included a 27-17 bulge in power shots in the final two rounds and a moment In round 11 when it appeared the Russian was about to score a most improbable knockdown.

In the end, the majority of the numbers were on Matthysse’s side. Feldman and McKaie saw him a 115-113 winner while Ackerman turned in a 114-114 score that mirrored that of HBO’s “unofficial official” Harold Lederman. The CompuBox stats were far more lopsided as Matthysse led 327-197 in total punches, 133-45 in jabs and 194-152 in landed power punches. The 327 total connects were the most Matthysse ever landed against an opponent (exceeding the 289 he landed against Ajose Olusegun) and fell just 20 short of Timothy Bradley’s record for the most punches ever landed on Provodnikov in a CompuBox-tracked fight. The big reason Matthysse threatened Bradley’s mark was he also threw a career-high 1,034 punches, which smashed his previous best of 689 he recorded against Olusegun. Perhaps the most punishing stat of all was that Matthysse landed 47% of his power punches over the course of the fight, including 50%, 63% and 59% in the first three rounds.

One would think that, based on those stats, Matthysse also should have sailed on the scorecards and my instincts indicated a 116-112 lead for the Argentine. But a deeper look into the numbers justified at least two of the judges’ scorecards, if not all three.

While Matthysse finished with massive statistical leads, those gaps were largely created by four monstrous rounds – 23-6 in round one, 44-17 in round two, 45-8 in round six and 31-11 in round seven. That means Matthysse landed only 29 more punches in the other eight rounds (184-155) or a little more than three per round. Moreover, Provodnikov connected with more power shots in rounds four (24-15), five (20-17), eight (12-5, nine (12-4) and 12 (11-5) and in the final five rounds, he led 60-42 in that category. Not only could Provodnikov have won those rounds on merit, he also could have also merited them on sentiment; few fighters could have ever come back from the merciless pounding he absorbed in the first two rounds and, when he did, his inspirational effort surely plucked his share of heartstrings and swung the close rounds in his favor.

Speaking of the opening six minutes, Matthysse had long carried the reputation of a slow starter but here, he flew out of the gates with shocking rapidity. He threw 71 punches in round one, 111 in round two and dipped below 80 only twice in the first 10 rounds (69 and 77 and rounds eight and nine before decelerating to 50 in the final round, probably because his corner told him before the final round he was ahead by eight points). The Argentine was intent on inflicting severe pain in the opening third of the fight to offset Provodnikov, who, along with James Kirkland and Curtis Stevens, is among the sport’s quickest starters. The plan worked to a tee, for Provodnikov was held to 31 punches and six connects in round one. Only the Siberian’s massive wellspring of courage and determination kept him on his feet and it also convinced trainer Marvin Somodio from throwing in the towel midway through the fight.

It might not have been the perpetual two-way war many expected but the tumultuous action showcased Matthysse’s elite skill set and Provodnikov’s durability, which should now indicate that he’s cut from the same cloth as George Chuvalo, Jake LaMotta, Battling Nelson and Harry Greb.

One question, however: Did Matthysse beat the rest of Provodnikov’s prime out of him like Julio Cesar Chavez did to Meldrick Taylor in their classic first fight? The sustained nature of the pounding Provodnikov absorbed is the type that has resulted in marked erosion next time out, especially since it came not too long since his epic war against Timothy Bradley. Provodnikov has more than earned a long and hopefully therapeutic rest.

Although I only concentrated on Matthysse when the fight was going on, I knew I was witnessing something special thanks to what I was seeing peripherally during the rounds, scanning the numbers between them and the crowd’s reaction to the back-and-forth. Experiencing it live was quite the treat but I look forward to watching the replay so I can fully appreciate what had transpired.

My mind was still spinning when I walked into my hotel room after 1:30 and it didn’t help that the moment I cracked open my door, two small dogs lodged directly across the hall from me began yapping uncontrollably. I was so wired that I briefly considered pulling an all-nighter in order to get all my writing done but after getting some words out I realized that I could steal a few valuable hours of shut-eye and still get to the airport in plenty of time. So, a little before 2:30, I clicked off the light and tried mightily to quiet the mental turmoil.

Sunday, April 19: I originally woke up at 6:30 a.m. but once I stood up, my unsteadiness and bleariness convinced me to snooze for another half-hour. It was a wise decision because I felt a lot better the second time around. After getting ready for the day, I polished off the first part of “The Travelin’ Man Chronicles,” stuffed my laptop and clothes bags to nearly the breaking point and prepared to start the 40-minute drive to the airport in Syracuse.

It was a wonderful day for a Thruway trip – bright sunshine and temperatures in the mid-40s. The newly-purchased HOF windbreaker easily fended off the chill and the Versa Note smoothly executed its assigned duties. I stopped at a service area to fill the Note’s tank but when I approached the cash register to pre-pay, I was asked to wait briefly by the clerk, who was on the phone discussing a technical problem he was having with the register. I don’t recall everything he was saying, but the letters “POS” certainly stuck in my mind. I mean, I’ve heard “POS” used to describe cars but certainly not cash registers.

Whatever the issue was, it was solved within three minutes and I proceeded to put in a little less than $7 into the tank. I arrived at the airport two minutes before my target time and I saved several more minutes by utilizing Hertz’s Express Return option, which allowed me to fill out a form and drop it and the keys into a box.

The screening process was a bit slower than usual though. Because I was using a conveyor belt shared by non-TSA Pre-Check passengers, I was required to unpack my laptops and liquids but was allowed to keep my shoes on and walk under the smaller metal detector.

My flight schedule promised a bit of anxiety. In exchange for an earlier return home, my connection window in Philadelphia was a mere 54 minutes (and just 24 minutes before the scheduled boarding process would begin). The fact that I needed to catch the F-terminal bus in order to reach my gate only added to the degree of difficulty. Even if all went well, I’d still have to hustle.

For once, I actually hoped for a helping of Philly’s sky-clogging ways because that would give me a few extra minutes to complete the plane change. But the Travel Fates being what they usually are, I didn’t hold out much hope, especially since the boarding process didn’t begin until several minutes past the 11:15 a.m. time listed on my pass.

My spirits dipped even further when I walked outside and saw a prop plane. Longtime readers of the Travelin’ Man Chronicles know I’ve had my issues with the smaller aircrafts; my first several flights featured heavier-than-usual turbulence, which carved scars in my memory. Those scars softened a bit the last few times when I experienced smooth sailing, so at least I entered this aircraft with mixed feelings rather than outright hostility.

I was seated in row two on the aisle, which usually meant I’d have to wait for my window seat companion to arrive before buckling up. Lo and behold – and this was a first-time occurrence, by the way – that person just happened to be right behind me in line. To me, Anne Goldych Dailey, a vice president/manager of network partnerships for South Carolina-based MST Services, bore a strong resemblance to CNN’s Margaret Carlson and was an excellent conversationalist. Better yet, the flight landed slightly ahead of the advertised arrival time and though I still needed to utilize the F-terminal bus to get to my gate in Terminal B, I arrived with time to spare.

Thanks to my status, I snagged a window seat in first class for the final flight of the day to Pittsburgh and for the third time in four flights, I was seated next to a professional woman who proved to be a delightful seatmate. Grace M. Bochenek, a Ph.D. and a director at the U.S. Department of Defense, is a Michigan native who has relocated to West Virginia (Morgantown, to be exact) and the back-and-forth took some of the edge off the turbulence that occurred both on the ascent and descent. I had brought a thick book to pass the time on my flights but, thanks to these smart and talented ladies, I had no need for it.

The sun was still out in Pittsburgh and I made excellent time on the way home as I arrived there more than 15 minutes ahead of my 6 p.m. target time. As always, I had plenty of items on my agenda to tackle but the rigors of travel left me devoid of the energy necessary to tackle them. I just wanted to sit back and rest for a while, so I activated the DVR and watched (and recorded) the “Showtime Championship Boxing” card topped by Andrzej Fonfara’s not surprising TKO over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who resigned on his stool between rounds nine and 10 due to what he said was a leg injury.

When this bout was announced, I thought the match-up was all wrong for Chavez because he had long banked on superior size and strength but, against the Pole, he had deficits in height (one-and-a-half inches), reach (three inches), volume (61.6 per round in his last three fights to Chavez’s 36.6 in his last three) and power at the weight (Fonfara’s 12 knockout wins in his 14-1 record at 175). Despite all the evidence in front of me, I still picked Chavez to win a decision because talents like his somehow find a way to turn logic on its head. But I made sure to add the caveat “if focused.” Because he wasn’t, Fonfara, the more disciplined fighter, shined brightly enough to justify his demand for a rematch with RING (and WBC) champ Adonis Stevenson, who Fonfara dropped in round nine after suffering two of his own knockdowns and who gave “Superman” one whale of a fight last May. I, for one, would like to see it again but I’m not sure if Stevenson’s brain trust would.

I will have the next four-and-a-half weeks to catch up on my “to-do” list because my next journey will be to Boston where, on the afternoon of May 23, Andy and I will work an NBC-televised card topped by Andre Dirrell-James DeGale for the vacant IBF middleweight title.

Until then, happy trails!


Lee Groves is a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, W.Va. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won 13 writing awards, including 10 in the last five years and two first-place awards since 2011. He has been an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He is the author of “Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics. To order, please visit or email the author at [email protected] to arrange for autographed copies.