3 More Rounds

In Appreciation of 2 Days: Ruslan Provodnikov

Photo: Chris Farina / Top Rank

Photo: Chris Farina / Top Rank

One of the truly special things about sports, or any competition for that matter, is that it provides the opportunity for an individual to positively change the course of their destiny.  Opportunity and luck are always essential components to achieving greatness, but nothing is more important than hard work and inner will.  When these attributes are showcased on the world stage, viewers are fortunate to witness the relief and pride of the human spirit seizing glory.  The release is so palpable, and we become emotional enjoying the feeling of true unconditional happiness for another human being.

HBO’s recent documentary special 2 Days: Ruslan Provodnikov is a remarkable documentary, which needs to be remembered when it is time to hand out Emmy and ESPY awards.  Regardless of whether you are a boxing fan, or even a sports fan, spending thirty minutes watching this program will make you feel better about humanity.  It’s the best kind of church session.

2 Days focuses on the lead up to Provodnikov’s title challenge against Mike Alvarado last year for the WBO Light Welterweight Championship of the world.  During interviews with Provodnikov and his team, we learn about his rise from a small village in Siberia to the top of his profession as an elite level competitor.  An early highlight and one that really explains what drives Provodnikov to greatness, is when he emotionally details the letters of support he receives from young people in his hometown.  These letters tell Provodnikov how proud his people are of him, and how he inspires them that dreams are possible.  Destiny is something that one can dictate through passion and struggle.  Dreams can become reality.

One of the underappreciated results from the fall of the Soviet Union is how it has provided opportunities for more athletes to compete against the best in the world on a professional level.  25 years ago, great fighters like Provodnikov, Golovkin, Klitschko and Kovalev would only be seen on the world stage during international competitive events, like at the Olympics.  Their glory and most of their money would belong to their country of origin.

Freedom is the greatest of gifts, well worth the eternal struggle, and seeing Provodnikov singing a Russian hymn during his walk to the ring on that championship night, was stunningly emotional.  Despite being from a country whose leader’s actions often put them at odds with western values and ideas, one cannot help but be engulfed with love and pride when Ruslan is singing.  Regardless of where he is from or who he prays to, Provodnikov represents the best of what humanity can strive to be; proud, hard-working, and filled with love.  In this moment, due to the connection to his struggle and spirit, Ruslan is a brother, a son, he’s family.

Provodnikov’s mother is also a joy of a co-star in this film.  This was her first time ever seeing Ruslan fight in person. With her motherly shape, expressive face and traditional Mansi garb worn with pride, one can’t help but smile whenever she appears on film.  She and some of Ruslan’s friends traveled all the way from the other side of the world to see his shot at glory.

Through remarkable camerawork, perfectly complimented with narration detailing how Provodnikov would not be denied on this night, we see him break Alvarado down and achieve greatness.  When Ruslan is announced the winner, he calls out for his mother with tears streaming down his face.  We she finds his embrace, the heroic Mansi warrior from a remote village in Siberia sobs out in disbelief:  “I’m the champion of the world!”

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