The busy jab of Mauricio Herrera (left) was one of the underdog's keys to upsetting highly regarded Ruslan Provodnikov on Jan. 7 in Las Vegas. Photo / Naoki Fukuda
Mauricio Herrera gutted out a hard-fought unanimous decision victory over heavily favored undefeated junior welterweight prospect Ruslan Provodnikov over 12 rounds on Friday in Las Vegas.
The once-beaten underdog fought with a badly swollen left eye from the third round on, but managed to out-jab and out-box the bigger, stronger Russian fighter in the majority of rounds in an entertaining main event of the season premiere of Friday Night Fights.
Herrera (16-1, 7 knockouts) won by scores of 115-113 and 116-112 (twice) but he had to dig deep for the upset victory. After outmaneuvering Provodnikov and beating the pressure fighter to the punch in the first two rounds the 30-year-old Riverside, Calif. resident traded punches with the Russian in the third round and immediately paid the price when a left hook nearly closed his left eye.
Herrera continued to boldly exchange with Provodnikov (17-1, 11 KOs) in rounds four and five and was punished by hard single jabs and power punches to the body and head. However, Herrera refused to relent under Provodnikov's pressure and found the younger man to be an easy target in an action-packed sixth round.
With ringside physicians visiting his corner to check on his eye between every round, Herrera wisely reverted to his stick-and-move tactics in rounds seven and eight. His constant jab caused visible puffiness around both of Provodnikov's eyes while his later movement stifled the 26-year-old fighter's punch output.
The two junior welterweights fought the final two rounds on even terms. Provodnikov worked his often neglected jab more often and scored with the harder single shots but Herrera got off with furious two-fisted volleys in the final minutes of the last rounds.
The overlooked underdog was rewarded for his superior technique, gutsy effort and obvious heart.
In the co-featured bout of the ESPN2 broadcast, 2008 U.S. Olympian Demetrius Andrade remained undefeated with a unanimous eight-round decision over Alberto Herrera (7-2-1, 5 KOs), the younger brother of Mauricio.
Andrade (12-0, 8 KOs), a highly touted and obviously talented junior middleweight prospect, won by scores of 79-73 and 80-72 (twice). However, while the 22-year-old Rhode Island native dominated his smaller, lesser-talented opponent with his speed, reach and timing, he showed some room for technical improvements.