Chris Algieri entered his challenge to WBO 140-pound titleholder Ruslan Provodnikov as a huge underdog but the Long Island, N.Y., native proved that he belonged in the ring with the feared Russian puncher by outpointing the odds favorite to a split decision victory on Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Algieri (20-0, 8 knockouts), who won by scores of 114-112, 114-112 and 109-117, also entered their HBO-televised bout with the reputation as a pure boxer, but he proved to have as much heart and guts as skill and technique by getting up from two first round knockdowns to outmaneuver, outwork and outbox the ever-advancing Provodnikov, who landed the harder punches throughout the competitive fight.
"It was a great fight," Algieri said. "Getting out of the first round was critical. He hit me with a pretty good shot, and I took a knee the second time because my lip felt numb, and I wanted to clear my head. I wanted to make sure that my eye was okay, that's why I took the knee. The shots that he landed in the first round were powerful, but they were few and far between.
Algieri, who fought with a completely closed right eye for at least half the bout, was able to stand up to Provodnikov's vaunted power and fire back with jabs, uppercuts and right crosses, although he was shook and stunned on a few occasions by the Siberian's hammer-like left hook.
"I could see pretty well until round eight," Algieri said. "By the time we hit round 12, I was blind in that eye. But I was able to anticipate his left hook throughout the fight. I was able to figure out his rhythm throughout the fight, and that was my key to success. As heavy as this title belt is, I don't even feel it."
However, the 30-year-old master's degree holder maintained his constant movement and work rate in the late rounds as Provodnikov (23-3, 16 KOs) appeared to slow down and lose the jab and upper-body movement he used at the start of the fight.
Algieri, who landed 83 more punches by CompuBox count, didn't give as hard as he took but he dished out a little more and that was enough to edge the fight on two official scorecards.
A full ringside report from Joe Santoliquito will be posted shortly.
Email Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer