LAS VEGAS – Oleksandr Gvozdyk might be known as “The Nail” for his offensive abilities, but he could now have the nickname based on his being as tough as nails after a 12-round battle with David Benavidez.

The 37-year-old Gvozdyk soaked up everything Benavidez could dish out, serving as a hostile welcoming committee for the super middleweight who was moving up to 175 pounds in pursuit of new challenges.

Benavidez won by cards of 116-112, 117-111 and 119-109

“I think it’s a 7 out of 10,” Benavidez said. “Oleksandr is a great fighter. I thought I had a great fight, tough fight, and we will move on.”

Benavidez revealed that he suffered a bad cut over his left eye two weeks ago and had a torn tendon in his hand in training camp.

“We’re still looking at 168 for "Canelo" [Alvarez] or a title if he vacates,” added the winner. 

But credit to Gvozdyk, who had more left in the tank than many imagined, including me.

Gvozdyk, looking immaculate at the weight, made a precise start throwing straight shots and following jabs with right hands. He appeared strong, while Phoenix’s Benavidez targeted the left to the body and Benavidez started to get his right hand going near the end of the first round.

Gvozdyk’s well-placed right elbow guarded him well against the body attack. In the second, the Ukrainian was holding his own, but Benavidez’s jab and a few right hands knocked his head back.

Benavidez had teased that his sparring sessions with Gvozdyk back when Benavidez was just a 21-year-old prospect would be worth the admission, and they were putting on a good fight. 

In the third, a neat Gvozdyk right uppercut on the inside got through, but Benavidez got busy. He turned southpaw and enjoyed a lengthy spell in the ascendency, and things started to look bleak for Gvozdyk, who was struggling not to get hit on the inside or the outside. A sweeping left hook from the American clipped Gvozdyk on the top of the head. A few centimeters lower and it could have had worse consequences.

Gvozdyk had been enjoying a better fourth, but with less than 30 seconds remaining in the round Benavidez found a home for a couple of right uppercuts and finished with a right over the top and catching the former light heavyweight champ with some hefty punches.

Benavidez tried to get his hands firing in the fifth, letting go of his trademark rapid combinations, but Gvozdyk locked the door with a tight guard and Benavidez then shelved those tactics and went back to the plan.

Not a bad idea, as shortly after he lumped Gvozdyk with a left hand, which thundered off the side of Gvozdyk’s jaw.

Those concerned over Gvozdyk’s ability to withstand the first six rounds were misguided. He looked sturdy and his attack remained cultured, even though the eye-catching work came from Benavidez.

Gvozdyk soaked up three straight right hands in succession and didn’t flinch as he chewed on several left hooks.

It was an engrossing fight being contested at an excellent level, but by the eighth there seemed a little more hope than strategy attached to Benavidez’s work as cries of “Da-vid, Da-vid,” filled the MGM Grand Garden Arena. He was guilty of loading up on the left hook, trying to knock Gvozdyk’s head into the stands.

The pace slowed a little, but a Benavidez left to the body appeared to register and the corner worked on the wound over his left eye. New camp member Stitch Duran was put to good use.

But credit to Gvozdyk, who fought with real craft and determination. 

It was Benavidez who was blowing in the ninth, and Gvozdyk timed a wild left hook from Benavidez with a right over the top.

The 10th was a good round for Gvozdyk. He looked comfortable with Benavidez’s power but was still disciplined with his own attack. One-two. One-two-hook. One-two-three-four. He was persistent, and there was a solid look to his work and his base.

Benavidez was almost all out of fresh ideas. His work rate dipped, and Gvozdyk pecked and probed away incessantly.

The “Da-vid” chants began again in the final round, but Benavidez was swelling around his left eye and finding it hard now to match the output of Gvozdyk. The multi-faceted bomber of the earlier rounds had become one-dimensional, and credit to Gvozdyk for that.