Mandatory challenger David Benavidez has been pounding the table and pleading for a fight against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.

But for now, he’ll have to settle for the next-best available option in Oleksandr Gvozdyk (20-1, 16 KOs), a former Alvarez sparring partner managed by the Mexican superstar’s lifelong confidant and coach, Eddy Reynoso.

Benavidez (28-0, 24 KOs), the two-time super middleweight titleholder, will make his light heavyweight debut on Saturday. The WBC interim 175-pound title will be on the line, and the winner might get an opportunity to face the winner of the undisputed title fight between Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev.

Usually, fighters test the waters in a new weight class, but not Benavidez, who is going after Alvarez’s stablemate and a former lineal 175-pound champion and 2012 Olympics bronze medalist.

“This fight came out of nowhere. I never expected to fight him,” Gvozdyk told BoxingScene. “Then, suddenly, I was presented with this option, which I took immediately. I signed the contract the same night. … I don't really care if Benavidez fights Canelo. That's his plan, but I have my own plans.”

Gvozdyk, 37, came out of a three-year retirement last year and beat Isaac Rodrigues, Ricards Bolotniks and Josue Obando; two of those fights took place on Alvarez undercards. Gvozdyk is currently trained by Marco Contreras after previously being with Teddy Atlas.

According to DraftKings, Benavidez is listed as a -650 betting favorite against Gvozdyk, a +450 betting underdog.

“Well, they're confident. This is good,” said Gvozdyk. “They probably know what he is capable of. And I know what I am capable of. We'll see what happens. ... I will hit him and not get hit back.”

After knocking out Adonis Stevenson in 2018, Gvozdyk was knocked out and hospitalized by Artur Beterbiev in 2019 for the lone loss of his career.

He then retired during the pandemic to pursue business opportunities in Ukraine before the lure of the squared circle proved irresistible, particularly after he served as sparring partner to Canelo ahead of the Mexican’s 2021 loss to Bivol.

“It was a misconception that I retired due to serious injuries,” said Gvozdyk. “I kept myself in shape, knowing I would return one day. I’m enjoying this stage of my career. I am just super-happy that, as a 37-year-old, I feel young and in my best shape. This is what brings me joy.” 

Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer, and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, through email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at], or via