By Robert Coster
His journey has taken him from the most remote and desolate tip of Northern Siberia to the shores the United States. Junior Welterweight Ruslan Provodnikov (15-0, 10 KOs) hails from Berezovo, an island village of 7,000 people, surrounded by icy water, oil rigs and with frigid temperatures falling as low as -58 F. As a teenager, Ruslan decided against a life working on the oil rigs and was bent on making a name for himself. He thus laced up the boxing gloves and his talent did the rest. He racked up an exceptional 170-10 amateur record, winning the European Junior and Senior Championships as well as countless tournaments, feats that turned him into a hero in his hometown and region. As a pro, Provodnikov has fought five times in the United States. Ruslan relishes comparisons made by the media between himself and Kostya Tszyu, also from Siberia: “A great honor which I hope to earn by following his footsteps,” says Ruslan.
His most important result so far was an eight round stoppage of former IBF lightweight Champion Javier Jauregui last February in California, a bout shown on ESPN. In this fight, Ruslan demonstrated his high punch output and trademark body attack, especially the left hook to the body which forced the seasoned Jauregui into submission.
Another big victory for Provodnikov was a two round wipe out of experienced Argentinian Victor Hugo Castro, winning the WBO Intercontinental belt.
Now the 26-year-old Siberian mauler is getting ready for what may be his toughest fight to date. On May 21st he faces rugged Francisco Figueroa (20-3-1) in Laredo, Texas. Ruslan’s promoters have big plans for Provodnikov should he pass the test against Figueroa. “A title fight for the end of the year or early 2011 is a distinct possibilty,” said German Titov.
Provodnikov, ranked 9th by the WBO, knows that, if and when such a fight does happen, all the people back home in little Berezovo will be watching and praying for their native son. “We are like an extended family,” comments Ruslan, “they elected me Man of the Year in 2010. Every one of my fights is an event in my village. I am the only professional boxer to come out of Berezovo and I dream of the day I can return there as a world champion.”