Ruslan Provodnikov is a VIP, a very important fighter, in the grand scheme of things.
No, not because he fights in a fan-friendly manner, one easy to digest and appreciate by the mass of boxing fans. But more so because he is Exhibit A of what can happen if you keep on soldiering, keep on gloving up, saying yes to fights while becoming a mainstay on a Triple A field, like ESPN's "Friday Night Fights."
Provodnikov (23-2) looked to be the sort who'd always have a home on ESPN, but would only likely get called up to the bigs, to HBO or Showtime, as a B side assignment to boost the record of a future star.
And if the 30-year-old is not a "star" now, he's darn sure on my short list of boxers who I keep track of, and want to know when they're fighting next, and against who. That said, I checked in with Ruslan's promoter, Arthur Pelullo.
He told me that a planned Provodnikov-Brandon Rios faceoff is all but dead, and that instead, he's keen on having The Siberian Rocky glove up June 14, probably against Antonio DeMarco.
He said that Bob Arum, who is co-promoting Ruslan's next fight, because he got an option to do so based off Provodnikov's faceoff against Timothy Bradley, in the 2013 BWAA Fight of the Year last March, is down with DeMarco. "But HBO won't do it, they want to wait for the results of the Thomas Dulorme-Karim Mayfield fight on March 29. They'd like Ruslan to fight the winner."
Pelullo doesn't love that plan and would still like to convince HBO to go with his and Arum's plan. "You never know how things come out, we don't want to wait," he said. "It's a terrible thing to wait. What happens if someone gets cut or hurt in the Delorme-Mayfield fight, and can't go forward? There are a lot of variables."
Ruslan last tangled in October, when he stopped Mike Alvarado in Colorado, Alvie's home turf, and took the man's WBO title.
As for the Ruslan-Rios pairing, Pelullo said that Rios' past scale fails make him too much of a wildcard. "Unless Rios makes 140, it's dead," he said. Rios has said he'd be willing and able to do that, but Pelullo isn't buying it. He said that Arum, Rios' promoter, cannot ensure that Rios can make junior welter. "I can't take that chance with Ruslan's career," said Pelullo, who is counting down to Saturday, when his boxer, Brayan Vera, fights Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a rematch, on HBO.
Pelullo said that coming off two losses in a row, having tested positive for a banned substance in his last bout, against Manny Pacquiao, Rios is more trouble than he's worth. "I don't need that craziness in my life," he stated.
UPDATED THURSDAY AM: Brandon Rios checked in with me, standing up for himself. He said that Pelullo isn't in his life, so he's not suitable to judge the degree of lunacy therein. "There's no point talking about this fight because it's not going to happen," Rios said. "Yes, I can make 140, Bob don't know what he's saying. And it's funny because his manager is still talking like I was the one that wanted this...Ruslan Tweeted me and said that he would like to fight me."
My take: I like to see fighters who are willing to fight five times a year, guys like Provodnikov, do so. Waiting to see the other shoe fall often results in nothing but delay. How about Provodnikov fight ASAP, and then get the winner of that Dulorme-Mayfield tiff?
Regarding Vera and Junior, Pelullo is hopeful that we don't see a scale fail from Cheech on Friday. The contracted poundage max is 168, he said, and Junior will have to pay out a chunk, which Pelullo wouldn't disclose, if he is over. The promoter said he's been seeing promotional footage of Junior wearing plastic to shed water weight, so he's a tad bit worried. And what would he do if Junior was several pounds over? "It would be up to Vera," he said. "But I'd tell him not to fight."