It was a fight that resembled the movie “Rocky”. But this time it wasn’t the Siberian Rocky. It was the partly Italian stallion from Huntington New York who stole the show.

Looked Beaten Up

With a swelling and closed right eye, American Chris Algieri fought with one good eye for most of the second half of his WBO Light Welterweight Championship match against Ruslan Provodnikov. But that was not a problem. Although Algieri’s face resembled a fighter that had just been beaten up in the ring, he walked away with a split decision win to stay unbeaten and capture his first major title in a big upset win over Ruslan Provodnikov.

Surviving Round One

The key to the fight for Algieri was surviving Round 1. Although the crowd cheered him on, Ruslan Provodnikov immediately shut them up by knocking down Algieri with a massive left hook. Moments later, with Provodnikov furiously pursuing him, Algieri took a knee after a series of shots punctuated by an left uppercut staggered him again.

Algieri later said that the key to the fight was “getting out of the first round.” He said that he took the knee because “his lip was numb” and that he wanted to ” clear his head and see how the eye was”. Algieri said the second knockdown was more intentional on his part rather than a punch that Provodnikov hit him with. But he admitted that the first knockdown was from a “pretty good shot” from Provodnikov.

Algieri added that the “shots in the first round were the most powerful, but they were few and far between.”

Tough Kid

Algieri proved to be a tough kid. With his eye starting to swell in the third round, he fought bravely by boxing and jabbing out of harm’s way. But against a punching monster like Ruslan Provodnikov, Algieri ate a lot of left hooks and right hands along the way. But despite the physical beating that he took in the ring, Algieri hung on.

And in the end, the judges favored his output and effective boxing over the clearly powerful shots and two knockdowns of Ruslan Provodnikov. The judges had it 114-112,114-112 and 109-117. Most fight experts gave the fight to Provodnikov, especially after he won Round 1 by 10-7.

But nobody questioned Algieri’s heart in a fight that everyone agreed was too close to call and could have gone either way. Compubox numbers had Algieri outpointing Provodnikov 288-205 in the entire bout.

Tough Style to Fight

Provodnikov had captivated the world with his toe to toe brawling style. He was Manny Pacquiao’s former sparring mate and fought two incredible wars in 2013. Although he lost to TImothy Bradley in his bid for the WBO Welterweight title, he proved that he could fight with the best. Later last year, he submitted Mike Alvarado by methodically beating him with body punches to capture the WBO Light Welterweight title. The Algieri fight was his first title defense.

After the bout, Provodnikov said that Algieri had “the worst style” for him, He said that that he prefers guys who “stand in front of him and who fight him.”  And while Bradley and Alvarado were willing dance partners, Algieri fought with a strategy. There was only one way to beat Ruslan Provodnikov that night and that was to outbox him. Algieri followed his game plan to the last letter. And it frustrated Provodnikov.

“Runner are not my style”. Provodnikov said through an interpreter. He also said that Algieri just ran and touched him then grabbed and touched him. Perhaps he never knew the old boxing saying that says “styles make fights.”

It’s a lesson that Ruslan Provodnikov must learn to make the leap from champion to greatness. Because the great ones know how to manufacture a plan B when they’re in the actual fight, and whether their opponents just “run and grab”.

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