Ruslan Provodnikov is a boxer who looks to be going places.
Freddie Roach and Eric Brown are newly in charge of getting him there with his head attached.
The early returns were encouraging Friday night, when the 28-year-old Russian ran his record to 21-1 with a sixth-round knockout of Othello’s David Torres at Northern Quest Casino for the World Boxing Organization’s Intercontinental Junior Welterweight title.
It was the main event on another Friday Night Fights card televised live on ESPN2 and played out in front of a near-sellout crowd of 900 in the Pend Oreille Pavilion.
Referee Bobby Howard waved it to a halt at 2:53 of the sixth so it goes as a TKO, but there wasn’t anything technical about it – Torres was crashing to the canvas after a flurry of wicked shots to the head. Howard never started a count, but Torres wouldn’t have been able to respond anyway. Indeed, it was several minutes before his handlers got the 33-year-old veteran to his stool.
The knockout was certainly in character. Provodnikov has stopped two-thirds of his victims, and he’s become an ESPN favorite – this is his third appearance in the last year – for a pressure, straight-ahead style that produces plenty of action.
Sometimes too much, noted Brown, who worked his corner this night.
“He’s got a great chin,” he said wryly, “and he’s not afraid to test it.”
It was less than three weeks ago that Provodnikov and co-manager Vadim Kornilov – citing “reliability problems” with previous trainers – sought out Roach, the legendary force at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles and current trainer of Manny Pacquiao, and Brown.
“We feel maybe we didn’t have enough time to absorb everything Freddie and Eric had to say,” Provodnikov said, with Kornilov translating. “You probably saw that I was moving my head a little more and jabbing more than I usually do, and I hope to show more of that in the ring.”
Provodnikov had won every round before the stoppage, but the fight was hardly lopsided. Even in the sixth round, Torres worked some solid combinations on the Russian, but got tagged with a hard right in the middle of the round and took an eight-count.
He was pinned in a corner in short order and tried to fight out of it, but another crushing Provodnikov combination sent him falling along the ropes.
Torres, who gave away 3 pounds at 137, saw his record fall to 21-3-2, but all of the losses and draws have come in his last six outings.
The event’s co-feature between a pair of nonstop lightweights, however, was the real crowd-pleaser.
South Korean Ji-Hoon Kim and Ghana-born Yakubu Amidu spent 10 rounds throwing every punch they had and some they invented – and landing almost all of them – before Kim was awarded a unanimous decision.
It was a nice comeback for Kim (23-7), who had an 11-month layoff while he recovered from retina surgery and had lost his two previous bouts before that. And it was a disappointing trip for Amidu (17-3-1) – whose management group includes actor Vince Vaughn, who was in attendance ringside – after winning four in a row since losing to world champion Ricky Burns in 2008.
Kim claimed through translator Paul Lee, who worked his corner, that he “would have knocked him out” but suffered what was eventually called a strained knuckle on his right hand midway through the fight.
Amidu, who weighed 132 to Kim’s 134 1/2, wasn’t as lucky. He was taken to the hospital after ring physician Don Baker detected a dilated left pupil, fearing possible nerve damage.
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