Early on, it looked like it wouldn't go past three.
For two rounds, Lucas Matthysse beat the tar out of Ruslan Provodnikov last night (Sat., April 18, 2015) inside Turning Stone Resort & Casino, Verona, New York. The iron-tough Russian ate combination after combination from a man who has at least knocked down 38 of 39 opponents.
Matthysse simply could not miss, particularly with some vicious uppercuts that exploited the Russian's lack of lateral head movement.
In the next two, though, Provodnikov's (24-4, 17 KO) unstoppable advance started to pay dividends. Targeting the body and head with his trademark hooks and overhand rights, "Siberian Rocky" fought through a headbutt-induced cut and punch-induced swelling to land his fair share of heavy shots.
Matthysse (37-3, 34 KO) is nothing if not capable of adjusting, though, using more combinations, careful clinching and a surprisingly-effective jab to control the middle rounds. Of particular note was the sixth, which was so brutal that Provodnikov's corner threatened to stop the fight if they didn't see more from their charge.
Provodnikov stepped up to the challenge and, in the last rounds, Matthysse's output began to drop, both from fatigue and from a hand injury he reportedly suffered. Grotesquely swolled, Provodnikov landed some hellacious punches, including a massive left hook in the eleventh round that Matthysse admitted to being rattled by.
Alas, it wasn't enough, as Matthysse took the majority decision on scores of 114-114 and a pair of 115-113s. MMAmania.com had the fight 117-111 for the Argentinian in our round-by-round coverage stream of the HBO Boxing special.
The fight wasn't quite the all-time classic we anticipated, but it was a fun, engaging and at times difficult to watch clash between two brass-balled bruisers. They both fought their hearts out and that's all we can ask of them.
Hopefully, neither took too much damage, because the 140-pound division is getting interesting again.
A primary source of that excitement is Terence Crawford, who opened the broadcast with a highly impressive knockout of Puerto Rico's Thomas Dulorme.
Crawford (26-0, 18 KO), the unquestioned top lightweight in the world making his debut at 140, was perplexingly passive in the early going, showing machismo and slickness but not much output. Dulorme (22-0, 14 KO) wasn't landing terribly cleanly, but the lack of retaliation from Crawford made scoring the early rounds for the latter a tough sell.
Things turned in a flash in the sixth round when a lovely 3-2 from Crawford took Dulorme's legs out from under him. From there, Crawford systematically dismantled him, dropping him three times before round's end to earn a TKO victory. Dulorme isn't the cream of the crop, but it was a terrific performance that will hopefully be the first of many fun clashes at junior welterweight for the Nebraskan.
For quick results and round-by-round coverage of "Matthysse vs. Provodnikov" click here.