Boxing fans sit through lots of the ordinary to get to night’s like this.
Who know what will happen Friday night (ESPN, 10 PM EST). It might be over early. One man or the other might dominate it for twelve rounds.
It might be a classic.
We won’t know until we see it play out. The one thing we can be sure of is we are getting two of the best light heavyweights in the world, both of them unbeaten, with history’s crown on the line. The odds makers can’t seem to pick a clear favorite.
Neither can anyone else.
Oleksandr Gvozdyk versus Artur Beterbiev is boxing at its best.
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Title: Lineal/TBRB/WBC World light heavyweight (2018-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 174 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Kharkov, Ukraine
Record: 17-0, 14 KO (26-0, 17 KO including World Series of Boxing results)
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-0, 2 KO (3-0, 3 KO including interim title fights)
Last Five Opponents: 136-17-3 (.881)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: Adonis Stevenson KO11
Titles: IBF light heavyweight (2017-Present, 2 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Height: 5’11 ½
Weight: 174 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Khasavyurt, Russia
Record: 14-0, 14 KO
Press Rankings: #4 (TBRB, Ring, ESPN, Boxing Monthly), #5 (Boxing News)
Record in Major Title Fights: 3-0, 3 KO
Last Five Opponents: 113-5-3 (.946)
Current/Former World Champions Faced: Tavoris Cloud KO2; Gabriel Campillo KO4
The Case for Gvozdyk: While Beterbiev may have had the better of a long ago amateur clash, Gvozdyk has been the better challenged so far as a professional. He saw a steady, progressive mix of veterans and still viable contenders like Isaac Chilemba and Yunieski Gonzalez en route to toppling Stevenson for the crown late last year. Gvozdyk is taller, longer, rangier, a little more creative offensively, and appears to be the better counter puncher of the two. If he can keep Beterbiev at the end of his jab and avoid close quarters engagement, he’ll protect his chin better and improve his chances to win.
The Case for Beterbiev: Some fighters just have a certain echo to their shots. Beterbiev is one of them. Even when he is just touching opponents to measure them it doesn’t sound pleasant. It’s what jumped out when he was blitzing veterans like Cloud and Campillo before the business of boxing stalled what looked like a meteoric ascent in motion. Beterbiev isn’t always quick of hand but he applies a steady pressure with a healthy helping of hard shots to the ribs. Gvozdyk can sometimes carry his chin high. If Beterbiev can stay close, or force Gvozdyk to work off the ropes, he can erase some of the athletic advantages Gvozdyk appears o have quickly.
The Pick: In a difficult fight to pick on paper, the smart play is probably to lean to the more rounded skill set. Gvozdyk has taken some big shots in his career and been okay. Stevenson didn’t go quietly in their fight last year and there have been few light heavyweights with greater power in recent vintage. The quicker, longer man is also the more battle tested in the paid ranks and that experience will count for a lot Friday night. The pick is Gvozdyk on points.
Rold Picks 2019: 61-14
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org