Friday, April 15, 2016

Notes from the Provodnikov-Molina Press Conference

Two things not normally associated with a boxing promotion – candor and gratitude – were on display at The Palm in Midtown Manhattan earlier this week. For Ruslan Provodnikov, he was grateful to start his new deal with Showtime. He no longer has to be the B-side and wait fight-to-fight for the blessings of a premium network. The multi-fight deal will maintain his visibility in the sport; it also won't hurt his bank account. At 32 and a veteran of many ring wars, Provodnikov might not have many prime years left but he seemed very excited to take on John Molina. "As soon as they told me that John Molina could be the opponent," he said, "I didn't even think about it. I said yes."

Those comments weren't meant to be offensive to Molina. In fact, Provodnikov praised Molina for his all-action fight style and bravery in the ring. Provodnikov even presented Molina with a Siberian wood carving, a symbol of respect and protection.

During Molina's comments, it became clear that the notion of respect was a two-way street during this fight promotion. He repeatedly referenced how tough Provodnikov was throughout his remarks. He viewed this fight as "two trains colliding."

However, he seemed very appreciative of Provodnikov's come-forward style. For this fight, he wouldn't have to corral an opponent in the ring or worry about a tough slickster. "What makes me a strong fighter in this fight," he told me in an interview later at the press event, "is that I'm not going to have to go find the guy." 

Molina was refreshingly honest regarding his strengths and weaknesses in the ring. "Everyone knows that I have trouble with slick fighters. I would not say Ruslan's a slick fighter. I'd say he's a bulldozer...It's going to be a can't-miss fight, a possible fight of the year."


Artie Pelullo, President of Banner Promotions, was the happiest guy in the room. Acting as the master of ceremonies for the press conference, Pelullo relished his time on center stage. He cracked jokes, offered his praises to everyone on the dais and enjoyed the camaraderie with fellow promoters Joe DeGuardia and Lou DiBella (he referred to DiBella as "Louie"). 

And make no mistake: Monday was a big deal for Pelullo. Getting Provodnikov a multi-fight contract with Showtime is a feather in Banner's cap. Banner also co-promotes junior middleweight Demetrius Andrade, who has been given a spot on the televised undercard against Willie Nelson. Should Andrade win, he'll have additional opportunities on Showtime in that the network has almost all of the top fighters in the division.  

For a mid-size promotional company like Banner, getting a premium network to invest in two of its fighters is a significant win. Banner will now have some guaranteed revenue coming in as well as a potential platform to feature additional fighters. Business is open for Banner Promotions at Showtime. And as Showtime's Stephen Espinoza told me, he had been pursuing Provodnikov for well over a year. In this instance, everyone's a winner.

Pelullo worked the room with the best of them, shaking hands, giving hugs and making future plans with others in the boxing industry – plans that involved scotch and a good cigar. His daughters were at the event as well, helping out with taking pictures and assisting the media. A sense of pride emanated from him throughout the event. Here was one day where he didn't have to fight the big boys for a seat at the table; on Monday, the table was his.


The last 20 months haven't gone well for former junior middleweight titlist Demetrius Andrade. After dominating Brian Rose on HBO in his first title defense, Andrade didn't return to the ring for well over a year. Fights were turned down and promotional quarrels led to a significant boxing hiatus. A promising young champion wound up becoming an afterthought to the boxing public.   

At the event, Andrade spoke about missed opportunities and he admitted that mistakes were made. However, he was excited about where he now finds his career. Having restored his relationship with co-promoters Banner and Star Boxing, Andrade signed an extension with them, a surprising development in that other, high-profile entities had been looking to sign him. He also started his own promotional company, A-Team Promotions, and he will be a partner in the promotion of his career moving forward.

In addition, he seemed excited about the opportunity to fight on Showtime, the network where most of his peers at the top of the 154-lb. division ply their trade. In an interview at the event he said, "There's a lot of possible fights in the weight class, all tied to Showtime. We're going to see who's going to step up and we're going to see who's going to step down...It's a great time for me to come back, to be seen, to get back to where I need to be. It's up to me from that point to make it or break it."

Andrade next fights Willie Nelson on the June 11th Provodnikov-Molina card. Unlike recent training camps, Andrade will prepare for Nelson in Providence, R.I., his hometown. (He'll also briefly visit SNAC's Bay Area headquarters for some additional training.) Andrade's been aware of Nelson since the amateur days but they've never fought – in the amateurs, Andrade was always in bigger weight classes. Andrade provided a solid scouting report of Nelson: "He's tall, lanky, loves to get in there and put on a show, gives people what they want. He likes to get his motor running early, get inside and do what he does. For me, that's the type of style that I'm going to like."

Andrade fully believes that his various assets in the ring will help him prevail in the fight but he knows that Nelson is a capable professional. During the end of our conversation, he offered an intriguing glimpse into how he views Nelson's power. "We all have power at the end of the day. It's all about can you connect. And the punches you connect they have a lot of steam on them? You're eventually going to get hit but it's always the one you don't want to get hit with. Can he land that one punch that he's looking to land?"   


Sitting at a table with Joe DeGuardia (President of Star Boxing), other members of his company and a few writers, the conversation naturally moved to Saturday's Errol Spence-Chris Algieri fight. In another burst of candor during the day, not one member of Star guaranteed a win for their fighter, Algieri. Thankfully, no grandiose pronouncements or predictions were made. However, there was cautious optimism at the table. DeGuardia believes that Algieri has made great progress working with trainer John David Jackson. He was very impressed with how Algieri went to the body during his last fight against Erick Bone. He thinks that Algieri will challenge Spence. He expects the fight to be competitive.

DeGuardia's sentiment seemed to be the conventional wisdom in the room whenever the fight was brought up, which was often. Nobody was predicting a win for Algieri but no one saw the matchup as a walkover for the untested Spence.


Promoter Lou DiBella was pulling double duty at the event, standing in for his fighters Willie Nelson and Dejan Zlaticanin, who were unable to attend the press conference. Zlaticanin, an interim lightweight titleholder from Montenegro, will be facing Emiliano Marsili, a longtime European lightweight champ, in the opening bout of the Showtime broadcast.

Talking with DiBella later on in the event, he raved about Zlaticanin: "The guy's an animal." DiBella signed Zlaticanin after he beat former champion Ricky Burns in 2014. In Zlaticanin's last fight, he destroyed undefeated prospect Ivan Redkach. DiBella thinks that Zlaticanin's action style will appeal to American boxing fans given the right exposure.

We started discussing other topics, such as the health of his company. DiBella insisted that everything was going well and bemoaned the lack of curiosity in the boxing media. With over 50 fighters in his stable, DiBella believes that his fighters aren't getting the recognition that a number of lesser boxers are receiving (many of whom are associated with larger promoters). He thinks that his collection of fighters, especially the ones from Russia and Ukraine, is a strong as it's ever been. He's frustrated that reporters want to ask him mostly about his relationship with Al Haymon and the PBC but very few inquire about other fighters in his stable (according to DiBella, Haymon is involved with only eight of his fighters). DiBella challenged me to take a deeper look at his Eastern European fighters and it's a challenge that I accepted. We made plans to talk more in depth about his roster at a later date.

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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