When Ruslan Provodnikov and John Molina Jr. meet in the ring Saturday night, expect the action to go from boxing to brawling in a hurry.
Both 140-pound fighters only know one speed, and that’s to go forward at full bore. The clash of sluggers at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) has the potential to be a Fight of the Year candidate.
Ruslan Provodnikov (25-4, 18 KOs) has been in all-action scraps with former titleholders such as Chris Algieri, Tim Bradley and Jose Luis Castillo, as well as heavy-hitting Argentine Lucas Matthysse. In taking on Molina, the hammer-fisted Russian finds himself going up against a fighter with a likeminded approach.
“This is a fight we think will go back and forth, so the plan is to be ready for anything,” said Provodnikov, a former world champion. “We’ve been working on boxing, but if the fight becomes a brawl, you know I’m always ready for that. If I have to counter and be more defensive, I’m ready for that, also.”
After dropping three of his last four bouts, John Molina Jr. (28-6, 23 KOs) is seeking to regain his standing in the 140-pound division with a victory. Against Provodnikov, the 33-year-old native of Covina, California, is looking to build on his third-round victory over Jorge Romero in November. Provodnikov is also coming off a stoppage win in November, finishing Alvarez Rodriguez in the fourth round.
Both Provodnikov and Molina, who each weighed in at exactly 140 pounds Friday, have experienced defeat in bouts that have been named Fight of the Year. Provodnikov lost a unanimous decision to Bradley in a 147-pound title bout in March 2013, but he managed to floor the champion in the final round of an all-out slugfest.
Nicknamed the “Siberian Rocky,” Provodnikov won a 140-pound title in his next fight when he stopped champion Mike Alvarado in 10 rounds in October 2013. He dropped a split decision to Algieri in June 2014 to lose his crown when he was outboxed by the New York native.
“I’m a little bit taller and have a similar reach to Chris Algieri,” Molina said. “Algieri’s a helluva boxer and a very educated guy in that ring, but he couldn’t stand in like I can because he doesn’t punch like me.”
Molina’s war with Matthysse in April 2014 was a bloody affair that earned the honors as that year’s top fight. Molina dropped the Argentine twice early in the bout, and an accidental headbutt left Matthysse cut above his left eye and Molina bleeding from the side of his head. Matthysse proved victorious after he floored Molina in Rounds 8 and 10, with the second knockdown ending the fight.
Molina won 25 of his first 26 fights to earn a title shot against 135-pound world champion Antonio DeMarco in September 2012. Molina was stopped in the first round by the southpaw, then proceeded to lose four of his next eight bouts, including decisions to former world champs Humberto Soto and Adrien Broner.
While Molina may never reach the top of the 140-pound division, he nonetheless provides plenty of thrills each time he gets in the ring, and he believes he has the skill and will to take down Provodnikov.
“I’ve seen just about every style, and so has Ruslan,” Molina said. “[Trainer Shadeed Suluki and I] have paid attention to mannerisms, punches and certain things that have worked against Ruslan, and my team has put together a helluva game plan.
"My job is to put that plan in motion, and I’m 110 percent confident that I’ll be victorious [Saturday].”
For a complete overview of Provodnikov vs Molina, visit our fight page.