The answer is complicated.
Round 1 saw Provodnikov stalk Algieri around the ring and apply his trademarked pressure. Algieri looked panicked, throwing nervous punches to keep Provodnikov at bay. A huge sweeping left hook from Provodnikov found the mark and Algieri hit the canvas. He rose quickly, his eye began to swell, and it looked like perhaps it would be a short night. Provodnikov pressed on the pedal and Algieri took a knee. The eye was getting worse.
Provodnikov pressured on, but as the rounds wore on, 3 things happened.
1. Provodnikov began to throw less.
2. Algieri began to land an alarming number of punches.
3. Algieri’s eye got worse.
Provodnikov threw less and less as the fight wore on. Perhaps because he fell in love with the sight of that perfect left hook from the 1st round. Provodnikov stubbornly kept trying to set himself up to land a big shot that would knock Algieri out. You could see him trying to find the perfect footing, the perfect distance, and all while he was looking for the perfect time to throw it, Algieri would pop him.
Algieri realized that the way to keep Provodnikov from landing was to just keep throwing. He peppered him with shots. He tripled his jab, he threw counter right hands, and continued to work in clinches when Provodnikov tried to break free.
By the 8th round, Algieri’s eye was a step below Denis Lebedev, but probably on par with Lucas Matthysse. Provodnikov certainly wasn’t throwing as many punches, but he was landing hard shots. His jab, while not landing often, thudded. The same with his left hook. Every time Algieri built up momentum, a hard Provodnikov counter would put an end to it.
As the rounds passed, an interesting narrative began to unfold. The rounds were difficult to score because Algieri was landing often, but his punches seemed to do no damage. Provodnikov’s blows moved and snapped Algieri’s head back. These are the types of fights that split boxing fans down the middle. In one camp you have the guys who prefer the hard punches that make a serious, visible impact. The others are the camp that believe in quantity over quality.
Whatever side you prefer will give you your winner. I scored it 115-11 for Provodnikov. Depending on how you scored it can probably predict who you thought won Broner-Malignaggi.
Scorecards aside, the real winner of this fight is Chris Algieri. Even if Provodnikov has scored a dramatic 12th round knockout, Algieri proved he belonged in the title picture at junior welterweight. He showed tremendous skill and conditioning, not to mention an enormous amount of heart to continue fighting with the swollen eye. Algieri looked just as lively in the 12th as he did in the 3rd. This came after withstanding 11 rounds of relentless pressure and bombs.
The reason Algieri will go on to another HBO fight is simple. It’s the same reason Miguel Cotto has suddenly become the best opponent out there for Floyd Mayweather. The reality is that the general consensus coming into the fight for both Algieri and Cotto was that at some point they would be on their backs. At some point the other guy would be too much. And at some point both of their wills would be broken.
What we saw was the exact opposite. When our expectation stood juxtaposed to the real life outcome, what we have are hugely exaggerated accomplishments and failures. Provodnikov looked like a brawler with only one trick up his sleeve, too stubborn to try anything other than what’s already failed. Algieri looked like a boxing maestro capable of troubling any fighter at 140 pounds. The truth? It’s somewhere in the middle.
Algieri is a tremendously talented fighter who deserved the victory, and Provodnikov is still one of the fiercest brawlers in the game. In the end, it was a close fight and perhaps the surprise of Algieri’s performance put a little too much weight on the blows he landed.
He wasn’t supposed to come in and beat Provodnikov. It was supposed to be a showcase fight en route to a pay-per-view with Manny Pacquiao in the fall. Algieri walks out of Barclays with the WBO junior welterweight title and another date on HBO. Possibly against Viktor Postol.
For Provodnikov, who knows. Maybe Marquez sees him a little differently now?