Provodnikov ready to fight his way back to the top

Ruslan Provodnikov's quest for a second world title continues Saturday in his first fight with new trainer Joel Diaz. Ed Mulholland/HBO

Former junior welterweight titleholder Ruslan Provodnikov wants to win a second world title. It's his goal and his focus. Promoter Artie Pelullo believes he can deliver him the opportunity, but Provodnikov is going to have to do his part, which is to win.

The crowd-pleasing Russian brawler is just 2-3 in his past five fights and is coming off a majority decision loss in April in a hellacious battle with Lucas Matthysse, a leading candidate for fight of the year.

Unable to land a date on HBO or Showtime, Provodnikov steps back into the ring to face Mexico's unheralded Jesus Alvarez Rodriguez (14-0, 11 KOs) in a scheduled 10-round welterweight bout on Saturday at Salle Des Etoiles in Monte Carlo.

It's a step back for Provodnikov in terms of the quality of opponent, but he knows where a good performance could lead.

"I will be world champion again," Provodnikov said at Wednesday's final news conference.

Alvarez, 23, is unknown and totally untested, having fashioned his unbeaten record against dreadful opposition. Only one of his foes had a record better than .500 when they met.

"This kid wants to beat Ruslan. He has embraced his chance," Pelullo said. "He sees the opportunity and he's coming to win, not to just put on a good showing. He's young and hungry and that makes him dangerous."

The fight will give Provodnikov (24-4, 17 KOs), 31, a chance to work on the things he and new trainer Joel Diaz worked on in training camp. Provodnikov hired Diaz before this fight after splitting with Hall of Famer Freddie Roach.

Diaz was on the same page as Pelullo at the final news conference, saying that he believed Provodnikov could win another world title.

"Ruslan, I promise I will make you champion again -- if you listen," Diaz told him.

Provodnikov, speaking through a translator, answered, "Coach, I will listen. I will sleep on the floor of the gym if I have to. I'll do whatever it takes."

Diaz said their pairing has been good and that Provodnikov was a good student in camp as he worked on refining his extremely porous defense.

"We had a great camp. I was concerned that Ruslan was leaving Los Angeles for Indio, a small town. I wasn't sure he would like it," said Diaz, who was in the winning corner when Timothy Bradley Jr. outpointed Provodnikov in a welterweight title fight, the incredible 2013 fight of the year. "But by Week 2 he was smiling. He said he felt at home and really opened up.

"He gets hit a lot, so I focus more on defense -- head movement and some other tricks of the trade so he don't get hit so much. He wants to go for the kill, but blocks himself. It's hard for him to do offense-defense. I'm teaching him to use offense as defense. I'm not changing his style. We're working on making opponents miss, and counterpunching.

"He needs to put together more combinations and improve his work rate. I'm also working on making him a devastating body puncher. He has reacted well. He's so good to work with. I'm excited. I was nervous after the first week and wondered if he liked my work. I know he does because he's a happy fighter and happy fighters always perform better."