Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera Prefers Rematch with Ruslan Provodnikov

Mauricio “El Maestro” Herrera knows time is short and with his name popping up on everyone’s list to fight Terence Crawford, Lucas Matthysse and Ruslan Provodnikov, he took the surefire hit.

“I want to fight Ruslan Provodnikov again,” said the Riverside-based junior welterweight. “It’s a tough fight. Everyone knows how good Ruslan is.”

Herrera (22-5, 7 Kos) opts to return to face Russia’s hard-hitting Provodnikov (25-4, 18 Kos) probably on the undercard of Saul “Canelo” Alvarez’s next fight in May. Once again Las Vegas will be the site of their confrontation. Contracts are pending.

“My family doesn’t want me to take it,” said Herrera, 35. “They remember how hard that first fight was.”

For many, that first encounter between Herrera and Provodnikov was “Fight of the Year” in January 2011. It was a bloody and bruising affair that saw both exit from the ring a lot different looking from when they entered.

“I couldn’t see out of my eye,” said Herrera describing the fight five years ago.

Provodnikov, 31, a former junior welterweight world titlist, has always found it difficult to find opponents. When he faced Herrera both were relatively unknown to the general public, but the close-knit boxing community knew all about both prizefighters. Boxing managers stayed away from Provodnikov due to his heavy hands and avoided Herrera for his clever fighting style.

So they met each other.

Herrera may not boast an abundance of knockout wins on his ledger, but no one has ever stopped or floored him in the ring. Not Mike Alvarado, not Karim Mayfield and not Provodnikov. Aside from having a solid chin, the Riverside prizefighter also has good defense when necessary.

Tim Bradley sparred with Herrera many years ago when both were under contract with Thompson Boxing Promotions. It was a sparring session that left an impression in the “Desert Storm’s” memory.

“Oh man, he was hard to hit,” said Bradley. “He’s good.”

Bradley decided sparring with Herrera was not a good idea.

“We might fight one day,” Bradley said.

Both Riverside County fighters faced Provodnikov and both ended up with their bouts called “Fight of the Year.” Bradley’s encounter took place in 2013 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.

Provodnikov’s style always seems to result in do or die fights.

The Russian slugger now trains with Joel and Antonio Diaz in Indio. It’s an ironic twist of fate as the Diaz brothers trained Bradley for his fight with Provodnikov. Now they’re in the Russian hitter’s corner.

Herrera could have accepted an easier fight but chose Provodnikov instead.

“I could fight Crawford who is a very good fighter in a technical fight. But I don’t want to fight in New York or his hometown,” said Herrera. “At least with Provodnikov, his fans and my fans are going to get a great fight. You could call this a battle for the People’s championship.”