By Lem Satterfield
Oleksander Gvozdyk will be among those Teddy Atlas votes for this week as a board member for ESPN’s top 10, pound-for-pound poll following “The Nail’s” 11th-round knockout that dethroned southpaw WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson on Saturday night before “Superman’s” stunned partisan fans at Centre Videotron in Quebec City.
The 6-foot-2 Gvozdyk (16-0, 13 KOs) earned his ninth knockout in 10 fights to dethrone the 41-year-old Stevenson (29-2-1, 24 KOs), a 5-foot-11 fighter who entered as boxing’s oldest and longest reigning champion with nearly 5 ½-year championship supremacy.
ESPN’s current Top 10 is, Nos. 1-through-10, in order Vasyl Lomachenko, Terence Crawford, Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin, Errol Spence, Mikey Garcia, Naoya Inoue, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua.
“I’m asked to make a top 10 list, pound-for-pound, by ESPN, and I had [Vasyl] Lomachenko in my top 10 after one fight, and, of course, everybody knocked me but I didn’t’ care,” said Atlas, also a broadcaster for the network.
“When I get a call on Monday from ESPN.com asking me if I wanna re-set my top 10 and make some changes, I’m gonna say, ‘Yeah, I’m putting Gvozdyk in my top 10.’ I have no problem that I happen to train the guy, no problem saying what I plan on doing, no shyness in saying this, and I don’t’ give a damn what people say.”
Gvozdyk overcame a third-round no-call by referee Michael Griffin from a right hand seconds into the period that was ruled a slip, being wobbled by a hard, 10th-round left cross that sent him reeling with only the ropes holding him up, and trailed, 98-92, and, 96-94, on the cards of Jack Woodburn and Guido Cavalleri, with Mike Ross having it a draw at 95-95 before Griffin rescued a helpless Stevenson collapsed in a neutral corner at the 2:49 mark.
“The end started when we really hurt him with the right hand that I thought we could hurt him with, initially,” said Atlas of Gvozdyk, a 31-year-old bronze medalist on the 2012 Ukrainian Olympic team. “Then I saw a left hook that hurt him and a right hand that finished him before the referee stepped in.”
Fighting out of Oxnard, California, Gvozdyk had earned the WBC’s interim crown in March with a unanimous decision over Mehdi Amar to become Stevenson’s mandatory challenger but ending his streak of eight consecutive stoppage wins.
Gvozdyk joined 2012 Olympic gold medal-winning teammates Vasiliy Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs), a left-handed three-division and reigning WBA 135-pound champion, and undisputed IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (16-0, 12 KOs).
Stevenson had gone 16-0-1 with 14 KOs since his lone loss by second-round stoppage to Darnell Boone in April 2010 that he avenged by sixth-round KO in March 2013. Stevenson entered at 9-0-1 with seven KOs in championship bouts, including his title-winning 76-second stoppage of Chad Dawson in June 2013.
“The fight plan throughout the eight weeks of camp was not to be a shark, but to be a shark biting off big chunks, but a piranha. What makes the piranha so deadly is that they take little chunks at a time until there’s nothing left,” said Atlas.
“I said we have to be that piranha all night long, taking a little chunk here and a little chunk there until final we can finish. After the 10th round [and Gvozdyk’s nearly being knocked down,] I asked him, ‘do you see that the chunks are nearly all gone?’ He looked at me and he said, ‘yes.’ I said, ‘good, and now go out there and finish him off.’”