By - George Delis (@Delisketo)
A major boxing clash takes place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 18th, as Artur Beterbiev and Oleksandr Gvozdyk put their respective IBF & WBC Light Heavyweight titles on the line, in what it’s guaranteed to be a fight of the year candidate.
Artur Beterbiev (14-0 / 14 KOs) began his career as an amateur, winning the World championship and World Cup once each, as well as the Europeans twice, subsequently earning the honorary title of “National Master of Sports”. During those years, he held victories over future Olympic medalists, such as Egor Mekhontsev (gold), Kenny Egan (silver), Abbos Atoev (bronze) and future pro world champions like Sergey Kovalev & Yuniel Dorticos.
He finally made his pro debut in 2013, quickly amassing 5 consecutive stoppages, before facing his first legit opponent in Tavoris Cloud (24-3). Beterbiev dropped the former IBF World champion thrice in the opening round and put him down for the final time in the 2nd after landing a short left hook to the chin, thus becoming the first man to knockout Cloud, in what turned out to be the last match of his career.
Beterbiev proceeded to defend his NABO title against Jeff Page (18-3) and also win the IBF North American championship. Despite suffering an early knockdown, he returned the favor two times, while finishing the job once again with the left hook. This was Page’s first ever loss.
Continuing his path of destruction in 2015-2016, he outboxed the former WBA World champion Gabriel Campillo (25-8) and KOed him with a powerful straight right, in only 4 rounds. After that, he added Alexander Johnson (17-4), Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna (26-6), Isidro Ranoni Prieto (27-3) to his victim’s list and the WBO International title to his collection.
His big moment came in November of 2017, when he met the 2 time WBA Intercontinental champion Enrico Koelling (26-3) for the vacant IBF title. Beterbiev was clearly the superior boxer, being way ahead in points, as Koelling barely offered any significant offense of his own. It was the one and only time a fight of his went 12 rounds, but he still didn’t need the judges, since he scored 2 knockdowns in the closing moments, causing the referee to stop the fight and crown him the new IBF Light Heavyweight champion of the world.
The Russian marked his inaugural title defense last October against the then undefeated British & Commonwealth champion Callum Johnson (18-1). These 2 bruisers engaged in an incredible brawl, trading big shots as well as knockdowns, much to the excitement of the fans in attendance. However, Callum made the mistake of closing the distance, which is where Beterbiev excels at the most, thus taking two rapid blows to the chin and to the temple, putting an end to the Englishman’s world championship aspirations.
Dispatching mandatory challenger Radivoje Kalajdzic (24-2) with relative ease, earlier this year, Beterbiev now looks to cement his legacy by fighting a fellow unstoppable fighter and become a double world champion. But the road to glory passes through a rather tough rival.
Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-0), much like Beterbiev, used to compete in the amateurs, where he won the European Cup and most importantly the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games. His reported record was 225-30.
In his 10th match as a pro, he dropped Nadjib Mohammedi (42-8) with a lighting fast right cross during the 2nd round. The Ukrainian defeated 2 more world title challengers in Tommy Karpency (29-7) and Isaac Chilemba (25-7) on the same year.
In 2018, Gvozdyk bested former European champion Mehdi Amar (35-6) for the right to face the WBC & Lineal World champion Adonis Stevenson (29-2), who at the time, was undefeated for 7 years and with 24 KOs under his belt. Gvozdyk scored an early knockdown in the 3rd after landing a clean straight right, but the referee called it a slip for some reason. He survived Stevenson’s superman punch in the 10th and hurt the champ before the round ended. The finish came at the 11th, after a plethora of strikes, finally stopping Adonis with a right straight to the chin, ending the reign of one of the best Light Heavyweights in history.
Unfortunately, Gvozdyk’s 1st defense wasn’t as impressive, since Doudou Ngumbu (38-10) suffered a calf injury during the 5th round, which led to the referee stoppage. Up untl that point, the champion was in control from the opening bell, putting together some slick combinations and his jab to good use. Now, almost a year away from the biggest fight of his career, he gets the opportunity to make the headlines once again, by gunning for a second world title.
It’s always intriguing to see 2 undefeated champions fight each other, but at the same time, it’s tough to pick a winner, since neither man has ever tasted defeat before. Gvozdyk is a much more technical boxer, buying his time and wearing his opponents down before going in for the kill, which most times comes in the form of a straight right. Beterbiev’s style on the other hand is far more aggressive. You can understand that, by simply looking at his record. Only 3 of his fights have gone past the 4th round. What’s also impressive about him is that he can muster a lot of energy behind his short range punches, even when his foe has him clinched. However, the most important statistic about Beterbiev might be this: 100% finishing ratio ! Not a single man that has stepped into the ring with him has managed to go the distance. It won’t be a surprise if he is the one to hand Gvozdyk his 1st loss as a pro. However, if Gvozdyk can survive the early onslaught, he might have a shot at outpointing the Russian. So who walks away the unified WBC/IBF Light Heavyweight World champion??? We will find out this coming Friday in Philly!
What a difference a year makes. This time last year we were all raving about Haitian sensation Adonis “Superman” Stevenson (24-1, 20). The Canadian southpaw had had a break through year avenging his sole loss by stopping Darnell Boone, claiming the WBC Light Heavyweight world title with an opening round blow out of Chad Dawson and defended his title with wins over Tavoris Cloud and Tony Bellew. He went 4-0 (4) for the year and seemed on a collision course with fellow big puncher Sergey Kovalev, a man who appeared to be his natural rival for divisional supremacy at Light Heavyweight.
This year we've seen Stevenson go from hero to zero. The bout with Kovalev, that seemed all but signed, vanished after Stevenson signed with “advisor” Al Haymon and since then he has fought just once, taking a less than impressive decision over American based Polish fighter Andrzej Fonfara, who actually dropped Stevenson in round 9. Not only has Stevenson been inactive but we've seen Kovalev show the traits that we thought Steveson had and the Russian went on to beat the division's other top fighter Bernard Hopkins.
To end the year Stevenson will be getting into the ring with a Russian opponent. Sadly it's neither of the two, Kovalev or Artur Beterbiev, that we would have wanted to see him in with. Instead it's going to be the strong but very basic Dmitry Sukhotsky (22-2, 16). A man who looked very poor last time he was in North America, losing a near shut out to Cornelius White, and in his last fight, scoring an unconvincing win over Joey Vegas in Russia.
Last year Stevenson looked explosive, destructive and genuinely scary. He showed sheer aggression against Boone in genuinely beating him into submission. Perfect timing against Dawson who he flattened with a perfect shot. Brilliant boxing against Cloud who ended up beaten mentality and physically. And no fear against Bellew who, as often does, talked a good fight whilst being unable to deliver. This year, and now at 37 years old, he looks like yesterday's story. The bout with Fonfara, a supposed showcase, was a struggle with Stevenson fighting as if he expected an easy win rather than fighting like a man who wanted to strengthen his position with an impressive performance.
At his best, which we may well have already seen, Stevenson was a powerful puncher with solid and under-rated boxing ability, surprisingly quick movement and impressive handspeed. His only question marks were regarding his stamina and chin with his sole loss being a shock knockout to Boone in their first meeting. This year however question marks regarding his heart for the game, his age and training have all cropped up. It may well be that after reaching pinnacle last year Stevenson thinks he's still the man, sadly his avoidance of Kovalev have seen many feel he's more of a mouse. It's a shame as he is talented and has all the traits to be a genuine star and scores the types of victories we all love to see, vicious knockouts and beatdowns.
In Sukhotsky really do have a basic fighter who fights like many fighters from the Soviet bloc. His work, at it's best, comes at mid range where he can get his jab landing to set up his powerful straight though he can hold his own, at a lower level at least, on the inside. Where he excels is in his physical strength and power. He's not explosive but he has the thudding and hurtful power which does damage every time he lands, as seen when he disfigured Eduard Gutknecht in one of his biggest wins to date.
He is however very slow, basic and his movement is rigid. He needs to set his feet before punching, can be left chasing opponents and at times just looks like a very simple fighter. This was most notable against White who completely out boxed him, out moved him and out landed him in humiliatingly one-sided contest. That loss however was a stark contrast to Sukhotsky's other loss, a rather enjoyable battle with Juergen Braehmer which saw Sukhotsky coming up short on the cards after a compelling late charge at the then WBO champion. The Braehmer bout however did come some 5 years ago and in all honesty it does feel like he's missed out on ever reaching his potential.
Sukhotsky has the ability to make this tough for Stevenson if the Haitian puncher isn't at his best. If, however, Stevenson boxes on his toes, makes the most of his sharp and hurtful jab and fights at range he could do a similar job here as he did to Cloud. If Stevenson's lost a little bit of speed however there is a chance Sukhotsky can drag him into a battle, smother the champion's power a little bit and make things difficult for the home town fighter.
We suspect Stevenson will come out victorious here but we'd not be shocked if his year from bad to worse and that he ends up looking bad even in victory.
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.