SAN DIEGO, Calif., October 18. 2019 – In Friday’s highly anticipated 50-50 world light heavyweight unification fight, confidence overcame courage.
IBF Light Heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev of Russia (15-0, 15 KOs) stood tall, pouring on the pressure, digging a hole shovel by shovel and burying a game but overwhelmed Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-1, 14 KOs). Beterbiev retains his title and wins Gvozdyk’s WBC belt, to become the lineal Light Heavyweight champion.
“For this moment it’s my important fight,” said Beterbiev. “I’m happy for the end, I’m happy. We work hard in the gym and have some targets. First target (holding up his IBF belt), second target (lifting the WBC belt). Maybe another comes soon.”
Gvozdyk’s first class boxing skills were on display in the first round of the fight. He positioned himself at the right distance to throw his jab, following with power shots at all levels before moving out of range to the left of Betebiev’s powerful right hook.
Confidence makes the difference
But it was Beterbiev who appeared more confident, calculating how best to apply pressure to a tricky opponent. The Russian isn’t afraid to throw his weight around, sometimes literally. At the end of the first round, he pushed Gvozdyk down on the canvas with his forearm and leverage. Initially ruled a knockdown, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission used replay to correct the mistake immediately before round two. It was the right decision and made in a timely manner.
It was a clue to the rest of the fight. Beterbiev was starting to figure out how to muscle in on Gvozdyk. It was the parable about boiling a frog brought to life. Beterbiev slowly turned up the heat a few degrees at a time, and as Gvozdyk realizes he was in hot water, Beterbiev began launched power punches with decreasing respect for any harm Gvozdyk could do.
Gvozdyk’s activity rate was much higher than Beterbiev. He and trainer Teddy Atlas knew they could only do damage to Beterbiev by attrition. But it wasn’t effective enough. Gvozdyk started visibly wearing out, and the shadow of the bear was looming over him.
Beterbiev stops Gvozdyk with three knockdowns
Beterbiev buzzed Gvozdyk in the eighth and ninth rounds. Would the Ukrainian even come out for the tenth round? Atlas implored Gvoydyk to will himself to overcome his fatigue, but it wasn’t enough. Beterbiev scored three knockdowns in the tenth round. Referee Gary Rosato finally called off the fight at 2:39 of the round.
Shockingly, two of the three judges had Gvoydyk ahead on the scorecards at the time of the stoppage by scores of 87-84 and 86-85. Only John Poturaj of New Jersey had it for Beterbiev, 87-83.
Beterbiev was the more effective and powerful puncher. He landed 161 of 515 punches thrown (31 percent), against 118 of 614 for Gvozdyk (19 percent). Beterbiev landed 113 power punches to 94 for Gvozdyk, including 28 body shots. Beterbiev even landed more jabs, 48 to 24. In the 10th round, Beterbiev landed 32 punches, the most by a Gvozdyk opponent in his CompuBox tracked fights.
Beterbiev’s most stunning comment was that he wasn’t at his best for the fight. “When I got the second belt, I have plus motiviation. I was training so-so, now I’ll be training very hard” for a third belt toward unification of the light heavyweight division.
Beterbiev has two choices. One is his longtime nemesis and countryman, WBO champion Sergey Kovalev; the other is WBA champion Dmitry Bivol, also of Russia. The outcome will be in large part determined by the outcome of Kovalev’s upcoming November 2 fight with Mexican star Canelo Alvarez. Beterbiev says he doesn’t prefer one over the other. “I’m focused for the title, not for name.”
Beterbiev is now the third lineal light heavyweight champion from Montreal, following Jean Pascal and Adonis Stevenson. He will need to take care of a mandatory challenger before another big-ticket unification fight, but all the players at the top are eager to engage and there are no promotional firewalls in the way. C’est fantastique!
Youth served: Abdukahorov bests veteran Collazo
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (17-0, 9 KOs) of Uzbekistan is 12 years younger than veteran Luis Collazo of Queens (39-8, 20 KOs), and it ended up making a big difference in their the round welterweight battle. After nearly 20 years as a pro, Collazo’s heart is willing but he cuts easily and didn’t have enough power to seriously threaten Abdukakhorov. The younger man was rough around the edges with some messy punching, or he might have made it an earlier evening.
Collazo suffered a cut early in the fight outside the right eye that was being controlled nicely, but he ended up with a far more vicious cut in the crease about the left eye due to a wicked accidental head butt. It nearly knocked Collazo cold. The fight was stopped with seconds left, and Abdukakhorov won a unanimous decision with scores of 99-91, 98-92, and 97-93.
“I am the IBF number one contender, and I would like to fight for the title fight next,” said Abdukakhorov. “I wanted to fight Errol Spence Jr., but unfortunately he got in a car accident. I wish him a speedy recovery. If he has to vacate the title, then I will fight whoever they put in front of me.”
Collazo has made the move of his career. He needs to hang up his gloves and continue working and training young kids in New York. It’s a fine use of his skills.
Undercard results from Philadelphia
Promising heavyweight prospect Sonny “The Bronco” Conto of Philadelphia (5-0, 4 KOs) was escorted to the ring by former heavyweight champion Tyson Fury. Conto lived up to the entrance, taking out Steven Lyons of Louisiana (5-5, 3 KOs) in a single round. Conto worked behind a strong jab and worked Lyons to the body under pressure. It was more than enough for Lyons, who retired in the corner after just one round.
“Other than Tyson Fury, I think I have the best heavyweight jab,” said Conto. It’s a little early to get too excited about the 23 year old Conto, but he’s one to keep your eye on.
“Hammer Hands” Julian Rodriguez of New Jersey continues his resurgence after being out of the ring struggling with a shoulder injury for two years. Rodriguez (18-0, 12 KOs) took on Leonardo Doronio of the Philippines ((17-17-3, 11 KOs). He made Rodriguez work, showing a tremendous chin. But the multi-level attack to head and body finally caught up to Doronio, with Rodriguez scoring a stoppage win in the last minute if the final sixth round.
Brothers Joseph and Jeremy Adorno from Allentown, Pennsylvania sent family and friends home happy with two solid victories. Lightweight Joseph (14-0, 12 KOs), age 20, sent Damien Alejandro Sosa of Argentina (9-4, 7 KOs) packing with a second round TKO. Super bantamweight prospect Jeremy, just 18 years old, scored his third win over Misael Reyes of Kansas City (1-3) in a four round unanimous decision.
Michael Seals (24-2, 18 KOs) is making his way toward a bid in the competitive light heavyweight division for a title fight with a flashy first round TKO over Elio Trosch of Argentina (14-9, 7 KOs). Seals is 37 years old with a college football detour before starting his pro boxing career at age 26.
Puerto Rico native Josue Vargas (15-1, 9 KOs) shut out Johnny Rodriguez of Colorado (9-5-1, 6 KOs) on all three judges’ scorecards in their eight round super lightweight bout.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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