The WBO light-welterweight strap changes hands in New York as Algieri survives early storm

CHRIS ALGIERI walked back to his corner at end of the first round a beaten man. Ruslan Provodnikov had just terrorised him in Brooklyn, slamming him to the deck with a vicious left hook that damaged his eye, before forcing him to the mat again. The script, at that point, was being followed to the letter. But 11 rounds later everything had changed. Algieri, eye swollen shut, claimed the WBO light-welterweight title via split decision.

It was a controversial verdict. Many ringsiders felt that the aggression of Provodnikov had done enough to retain his belt, while others preferred the sharp boxing of the fleet-footed Long Island challenger – who was cheered on by the local 6,218 fans.

“It was a great fight. The big thing was getting out of the first round to start with,” said Algieri, whose right eye was a complete mess. “He hit me with a pretty good shot. I took a knee the second time because my lip was numb, I wanted to clear my head and see how my eye was. It wasn’t anything he hit me with.

“The shots in the first round were the most powerful but they were few and far between.”

Provodnikov, trained by Freddie Roach cut a forlorn figure afterwards. He had hoped victory – that looked so assured in the opening moments – would secure a showdown with stablemate Manny Pacquiao. But it wasn’t to be as two judges scored the bout for Algieri, 117-109 and 114-112, while a third scored it for Provodnikov, 114-112.

“I felt like after the knockdown I was trying to land the big punch,” Provodnikov explained. “I have to admit, runners are not my style. I said before it’s just not my style. He just ran and touched me. He just jabbed and touched me.

“This is the worst style for me. I like guys who are in front of me and fighting me.”