Short of setting off a brick of C-4, it’s hard to imagine more explosiveness in a boxing ring than junior welterweight Ruslan Provodnikov (20-1, 13 KOs) and lightweight Ji-Hoon Kim (22-7, 18 KOs). Both are in action on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights series this week; Provodnikov faces David Torres (21-2-2, 13 KOs) and Kim squares off against Yakubu Amidu (20-2-1, 18 KOs). Either fight has Knockout of the Year potential, the kind of fight night that’s heavy on swing fight four-rounders and “hope your girlfriend doesn’t mind getting you a beer because you don’t want to get up” moments.
The main event features Provodnikov, a native of the Siberian town of Beryozovo in Russia, back on the horse in only his second fight since his last appearance on FNF last April, an eighth-round stoppage of journeyman Ivan Popoca. Provodnikov was supposed to have a rematch of his only loss as a pro, a fight in which he was horrifically robbed on the scorecards by Mauricio Herrera in ESPN’s season opener last January, which would have been the season finale and the perfect bookend to the 2011 season, but a shoulder injury forced the Russian’s withdrawal from the fight. Provodnikov was last seen in his native country two months ago taking a wide unanimous decision over a washed-up DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley.
Playing the role of opponent for Provodnikov will be David Torres, who has been stopped in both of his pro losses, once by Raymundo Beltran, the other time by Julio Diaz. Torres won his first 20 pro fights, but since stepping up in class in the Diaz fight, Torres has proven to be thoroughly ordinary, with only one win in his last five, and that a tune-up fight against club fighter Zaid Zavaleta in the not-exactly-a-hotbed town of Tacoma, Washington after the Diaz fight in 2008. Both of his last two fights have been draws, one against Santos Pakau (27-6-1 at the time of the fight) and the other, his last fight in February of 2011, against Michael Stewart (who, despite 58 fights as a professional, never earned a shot at a world title, coming closest in a loss to Sharmba Mitchell in 2004 for the “interim” version of the IBF belt at 140 and what would have been a shot at Kostya Tszyu).
Provodnikov’s style consists of coming forward, punching relentlessly with a vicious body attack, and wearing down his opponent in order to crack him in the later rounds, and unlike most fighters from the former Soviet Union who do this methodically and in a way that is not TV-friendly, Provodnikov fights more like Pawel Wolak, moving his hands constantly and chopping away more like a lumberjack with too much coffee in him. If you haven’t seen this guy fight, you owe it to yourself to tune in.
Speaking of all-action fighters, they don’t come much more all-action than Ji-Hoon Kim, who is better than his record would indicate. Kim, from Goyang City, South Korea, turned pro in 2004 at the tender age of 17, and by 2006 carried an utterly pedestrian record of 8-5. His 14th fight was a two-round KO of Soo-Myung Bae in Kim’s hometown and it was off to the races; Kim won 13 in a row, including a monster first-round KO of Tyrone Harris on FNF last February and a win over the respectable Ameth Diaz in May before running face-first into a wall when he stepped up to try and win the IBF lightweight title. Miguel Vazquez beat Kim silly for twelve rounds en route to a unanimous decision, making Vazquez the champ and sending the Korean back in the line.
Kim then tried to work his way back up the IBF pecking order with a fight against Leonardo Zappavigna, who did to Kim what Kim did to Tyrone Harris. Zappavigna hardly broke a sweat en route to a first round TKO, and it was back to Korea for a bit of medicine for Ji-Hoon, who won his last fight by split decision over Dong-Hyuk Kim in only the latter’s fourth pro fight. Does this mean Kim is shot? Has his career hit a wall mere days after his 25th birthday (he turned 25 on January 17th)?
Attempting to answer that question will be Yakubu Amidu, whose style is best described as “kill or be killed.” Amidu has 18 knockouts in his 20 pro wins and has been stopped once out of his two pro losses, a stoppage at the hands of Ricky Burns for a regional belt in Scotland in 2008. Amidu’s record outside of his native Ghana is only 4-2, but that includes two wins on ESPN, one over John Revish in April of last year, the other a three-round KO of Martin Tucker (7-9 at the time of the fight) in a swing fight on the FNF season finale in August. This matchup promises to be a must-win for a pair of power punchers, and when desperation for relevance enters into the equation, the fans tend to be the winners.
Friday Night Fights airs at 9 PM Eastern/6 PM Pacific on ESPN2 and online at ESPN3.com. The Northern Quest Casino in Airway Heights, Washington, just west of Spokane, will for one glorious night be more explosive than a best-of-MythBusters DVD. Call your friends. Throw a fight party. Keep the beer on ice, the pizza guy on speed dial, and the nachos on the table—this is going to be fun. Your friendly neighborhood commentator will have a full recap of the night’s action following the conclusion of the fights; The Boxing Tribune is your authority on Your Boxing Authority.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. He ain’t gonna lie—Provodnikov’s his favorite fighter in the 140 pound division. Fan mail, hate mail, and “in Soviet Russia body punches YOU” jokes can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.