Friday, March 24, 2023  |


Ruslan Provodnikov, John Molina ready for June 11 showdown

Lucas Matthysse (L) nails Ruslan Provodnikov (R) with a left uppercut during their Fight of the Year candidate in 2015. Provodnikov, who has since taken on new trainer Joel Diaz in hopes of improving his defensive technique, dropped a close decision. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Lucas Matthysse (L) nails Ruslan Provodnikov (R) with a left uppercut during their Fight of the Year candidate in 2015. Provodnikov, who has since taken on new trainer Joel Diaz in hopes of improving his defensive technique, dropped a close decision. Photo by Naoki Fukuda

HOLLYWOOD, California – The main event of Showtime’s June 11 edition of Championship boxing features two junior welterweights who consistently find themselves in “Fight of the Year” candidates and winners.

Recently, Ruslan Provodnikov and John Molina Jr. held a media event at Fortune Gym, just a few weeks out from their clash at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York, and all parties involved spoke with

For the past three years, it hasn’t been a problem for Provodnikov and Molina to find themselves in worthy candidates for “FOTY”, however, both have had a hard time leaving these fights as the victor.

Perhaps with that in mind, Provodnikov, 32, has made a distinct change to his regimen. After becoming a fan favorite under the tutelage of Freddie Roach, Ruslan hired Joel Diaz to be his trainer, and he already sees a difference in himself.

“Thank God everything is going very well,” said Provodnikov when asked how their relationship has grown over the past eight months. Via translation from his Russian manager, Vadim Kornilov, Ruslan continued, “Joel and I are great together. We enjoy training together. It’s always very positive – that’s important for me. Technically and boxing wise, I’ve added a lot of different things. Most importantly, I’ve increased my defensive skills and that’s going to show in this fight. I’m positive of that. I’ve added more punching and combinations. I know that I’ve gotten better in the last two camps, and that’s going to show.”

Provodnikov has also been prone to cuts in recent fights thanks to his defense, or lack of, adding even more importance to his adjustments. Diaz, who most famously trained Timothy Bradley Jr. in the past, shed light on these improvements.

“The biggest improvement in him is his defense,” Diaz admitted. “He’s always been reckless. When that bell rings he just wants to go in there, exchange, and try and knock you out, but he always takes torture on the way in – his face, he has sensitive skin – and one of my main focuses on him was his defense. That has been one of the biggest improvements other than him staying loose. He gets too tight. He drains himself sometimes by trying to knock an opponent out by using so much power when he tightens up. So now I’m teaching him how to use his body motion and be more flexible, instead of pushing his punches and wasting so much energy.”

Come fight night, it will be eight months since Provodnikov (25-4, 18 knockouts) last stepped in the ring. He stopped Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez in the fourth round in a fight that took place last November in Monaco, and off American television. It was also fought at 147 pounds, the weight where Ruslan’s last two wins have come when looking at his last four fights. As for the other two, decision defeats to Lucas Matthysse and Chris Algieri at 140 pounds, Provodnikov hasn’t won a junior welterweight fight since he knocked out Mike Alvarado in October of 2013 to win the WBO title.

With Provodnikov providing an extensive workout for the media that day, one that included multiple rounds of mitt work and hitting seemingly every bag in the gym, the question of if Ruslan was struggling to make 140 pounds was then posed to Diaz. “Yesterday he was at 148. He’s been at 150 for the past two weeks,” he responded, instantly debunking the notion. About the long workout, Diaz also admitted Provodnikov wanted to work up a nice sweat in order to enjoy a hearty meal later that night. Provodnikov, Beryozovo, Russia, held training camp for this fight in Diaz’s desert terrain of Indio, California.

With a long layoff in mind, one reporter brought up the matter of ring rust for Provodnikov going into this fight, to which Ruslan explained, “Everything is fine. I’m training all the time, and always moving around, even when I’m at home. Training camp is going very well. Joel Diaz is very happy with training. Everything is going a lot better than the last training camp. Everything is 100-percent. I’m not worried at all.”

No one is worried when assessing Provodnikov’s mindset when fight night comes, and when it comes to what he assumes Molina will bring to the table, he agrees with the consensus. “I’m expecting him (Molina) to come to fight. No doubt he’s a fighter, he’s a warrior. For somebody to defeat me, to beat me, I think it’s big motivation, and I think he’ll be coming to win no matter what. That’s what I expect from people that actually take a fight with me. That they’ll die in the ring to defeat me because it will be a great accomplishment. So I’m expecting a real war.”

When it comes to the distinct size and reach advantage Molina has over Provdnikov, he responded, “Nothing to be afraid of.”

Even with the changes to Provdnikov’s camp, forecasting this fight as a war is a realistic assessment. However, Ruslan dabbles in realism, stating, “Anything can happen,” when asked if it will be a “FOTY.” He continued, “I don’t watch boxing too much and don’t know too much about what is going on during my training camp because I’m focused on the fight I have at hand. There’s been fights that were predicted to be the most exciting fights and they weren’t. We’ll know June 11th what kind of fight this is gonna be.”

Although he’s become a fan favorite since “The Siberian Rocky” made himself known in RING magazine’s 2013 “FOTY” against Bradley, Provodnikov seems to come up short in every big fight. He rebounded after his loss to Bradley, but Providnikov came up short on the cards against Algieri in 2014, and the same went for last year’s “FOTY” nominee to Matthysse. Those fights don’t linger in the mind of Provodnikov however. “I don’t look at the previous fights as something to motivate myself,” he said. “All those fights that happened before were all experience. The most important thing is to look at them to make the corrections needed to go on, to be better, and to win the future fights. So I don;t think it would be added pressure, it’s more like experience that made me better, and that’s the reason why I’m here today. This is another opportunity for me to improve and show what I can do in this fight.”

Like his June 11 foe, Molina (28-6, 23 KOs) has been remembered for partaking in an instant classic, but he too failed to get his arm raised after being stopped by Matthysse in RING’s 2014 “FOTY.” The 33-year-old slugger from Covina, California recognizes this, and for that alone, he feels like the stakes are high considering he and Ruslan have this in common. “There’s an unwritten kind of motivation behind both of us,” Molina said. “We definitely want to be at the winning end of a ‘Fight of the Year’ so I think it’s gonna be a good thing. If this fight was in a backyard somewhere, we would still both bring it because that’s the kind of pride we both fight with.”

“Absolutely. I can stop any man,” said Molina on the possibility of doing something that has never been done – knocking out “The Siberian Rocky.” Making that an even tougher feat to accomplish, Provodnikov hasn’t even been dropped in the squared circle. “There’s a first for everything,” Molina quickly responded to the fact.

The two were playful when they encountered each other at the media workout. Whether it be playful shoving or flexing in front of Molina, John played along seemingly knowing that the next time they share a ring for 36 minutes, it will be anything but the peaceful disposition they were portraying. It begs the question of what inspires a fighter in the heat of the moment of a fire fight.

“My family,” Molina responded. “In the beginning when you start this game, your family is different than what it is now. I’m a married man with two kids and because of boxing, there’s a lifestyle we’re accustomed to, and I don’t want that to change. So, I’m gonna leave it all in the ring every night I fight.”

As for Provodnikov, “I’m very stubborn. I think that’s the main reason. That’s the main thing that gets me going. The last thing I ever want to do is to show weakness, and I think that’s my main motivation: Not to take a step back, not to show weakness, and show my stubbornness instead.”

If that stubbornness takes over his natural instinct of getting in a slugfest, Diaz’s practices may be all for naught, but he would be the only one complaining.