Two of the four major light heavyweight titles will be on the line on October 18 at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Real fireworks should be expected when undefeated knockout artists WBC champion Oleksandr “The Nail” Gvozdyk (17-0, 14 KOs) and IBF titlist Artur Beterbiev (14-0, 14 KOs) go head-to-head.
The Ukrainian Gvozdyk has been installed as the slight favorite at -140 with the Russian, Beterviev, coming back at +110. It’s the third time that Gvozdyk has been favored by less than -250. The two previous bouts were against Isaac Chilemba and Adonis Stevenson, both who he defeated by knockout. Conversely, this is the first time that the power-punching Beterbiev has entered a fight as the underdog though not by much considering his brutality. Interestingly, the two fighters met in the ring a decade ago as amateurs, with Beterbiev winning by stoppage in the second round.
Tale of the Tape
This will be Gvozdyk’s second title defense since winning the WBC and lineal light heavyweight belts from Adonis Stevenson via devastating knockout in the eleventh round in December 2018. The loss would mark the end of Stevenson’s’ career as he was put into a medically induced coma to treat a traumatic brain injury.
That glorious win was then followed by a fifth round stoppage over Doudou Ngumbu after the Canadian was unable to continue after suffering an innocuous calf injury.
The 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist is athletic, well-balanced and packs good power in both hands. He’s rarely out of position and likes to find angles to deliver devastating punches.
Gvozdyk’s amateur background is extensive with a 220-30 record. He went an incredible 9-0 during the 2013 World Series of Boxing and has continued to scale new heights since.
As a pro, Gvozdyk has compiled solid wins over Nadjib Mohammedi, Tommy Karpency, Isaac Chilemba and Adonis Stevenson. He’s been impressive in each outing even when tested as he was against Karpency when dropped in the first round only to storm back and stop his opponent in the sixth. He also took a considerable pounding from Stevenson before taking over in that fateful eleventh round.
Gvozdyk will surely be tested yet again against a fierce and determined opponent in Beterbiev. The powerful Russian has knocked out all of his previous victims having only been extended past the seventh round once in fourteen pro ring appearances.
Beterbiev’s come-forward, take-no-prisoners approach makes him very intimidating and the only reigning world champion with a 100 percent KO ratio.
He won the vacant IBF belt with a sensational twelfth round TKO over Enrico Koelling with just 27 seconds remaining in the bout. His next two title defenses have lasted a total of nine rounds, and most recently he walked through tough top contender Radivoje Kalajdzic in five rounds in the main event of Top Rank on ESPN telecast in May.
He rose rapidly earlier in his pro career, taking out veteran former contenders Tavoris Cloud in the sixth round and then Gabriel Campillo two fights later 4-5 years ago. However, he really hasn’t faced anyone as dangerous as those guys until now.
The one knock against Gvozdyk is that he is all too willing to go to war on occasion and takes unnecessary punishment at times which could leave him vulnerable against bigger punchers. Trainer Teddy Atlas has made this the focal point of his work with the WBC champion but at age 32, you have to wonder if those flaws can be corrected at this stage. Beterbiev’s skills are not quite on the same level as Gvozdyk and he is flat footed often lacking head movement as a puncher. His battles with promotors and managers outside of the ring is almost as well-known as his limited activity within it. The Russian has only made two defenses of the IBF belt he won in 2017 but is finally getting the fights he craves. That said, there is not that many degrees of separation between the men making this a virtual pick-‘em fight.
This is the first unification bout among the four belt-holders at 175 so it is significant and a potential Fight of the Year candidate like Spence-Porter. Both men are fairly evenly matched which further adds to the intrigue. Gvozdyk is the better ring technician and it is not hard to see him out boxing the sometimes plodding Russian to a clear decision. However, questions loom surrounding Gvozdyk’s chin quality and whether it can withstand Beterbiev’s powerful combinations. Beterbiev is too powerful and accurate for Gvozdyk to trade with so expect to see him fighting defensively through most of the early rounds like he did against Stevenson. I think the inside game of Beterbiev will be the difference in an exciting fight where both men might hit the canvas multiple times but only one will emerge victorious.
Verdict: Beterbiev by 8th round TKO
Former welterweight world titlist Luis Collazo and Kudratillo Abdukakhorov will square off in a 10-round bout on the same card headlined by Gvozdyk-Beterbiev.
Collazo (39-7, 20 KOs) was originally set to face former world title challenger Jose Benadivez Jr. on August 17, but Benadivez suffered a leg injury and had to pull out of the fight and was not going to be ready for the re-scheduled October 18 contest.
The 38-year old Collazo is coming off of three straight wins since being stopped by Keith Thurman in a title fight in 2015. Injuries have limited his activity lately as 2019 marks the first time that he has fought more than once in a calendar year over the past four years.
Abdukakhorov (16-0, 9 KOs), the younger man by 12 years, is an unbeaten Uzbekistan fighter and frontrunner for a potential mandatory title shot against unified champion Errol Spence Jr, if he can secure a victory over Collazo.
He previously won a title elimination fight via unanimous decision over Keita Obara and is ranked #3 by the IBF.
There is much at stake too for Collazo should he lose this fight. The veteran could soon be challenging WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford. He’s lost a few steps given his advanced age but still possesses power and has the kind of name recognition that makes him a valuable opponent for Crawford.
The events will air live on Top Rank on ESPN and ESPN Deportes starting at 7 p.m., ET.