PHILADELPHIA – There weren’t many people happier than Oleksandr Gvozdyk to see footage recently of an able-bodied Adonis Stevenson hitting a heavy bag at a gym in Canada.
Tracking Stevenson’s recovery from brain injuries suffered during their light heavyweight title fight 10 months ago has helped unburden Gvozdyk. The 42-year-old Stevenson obviously will never box again, but just knowing Stevenson can lead a relatively normal life is enough for the compassionate man who knocked out Stevenson to win the WBC 175-pound championship December 1 at Videotron Centre in Quebec City, Canada.
“I’m very happy for him and his family,” Gvozdyk told BoxingScene.com before meeting with reporters Wednesday at the Renaissance Philadelphia Airport Hotel. “Right now, it seems like he’s a 100-percent healthy person. So, I’m happy for him and I don’t have any burden anymore.”
The unbeaten Ukrainian admits Stevenson’s hospitalization following his 11th-round knockout loss to Gvozdyk darkened what should’ve been a completely joyous occasion for him. Though Gvozdyk understands boxing is inherently dangerous for anyone that tries it, he couldn’t help but feel awful for Stevenson and his family after the former champion underwent emergency surgery and was placed in a medically induced coma.
“It screwed everything up a little bit,” Gvozdyk said. “Of course, I was happy. It was the biggest achievement in my life. At the same time, it was kind of like crap happens in our lives. But I didn’t feel completely guilty for it, because it’s not my fault. It’s boxing. Things happen a lot of ways. Or maybe it was because he was 41 years of age. I don’t know what happened. But again, it screwed it up. Of course, I was concerned about him. But I was still able to celebrate my win.”
Stevenson initially was listed in critical condition. The Haitian-born, Quebec-based boxer’s health improved over time, however, and Stevenson learned to talk and walk again.
Gvozdyk, who’ll square off against Artur Beterbiev on Friday night, first felt relieved when Stevenson was released late in March from a hospital in Montreal. Two months later, Stevenson appeared in public for the first time, walking hand-in-hand with his girlfriend, Simone God.
“It was tough,” Gvozdyk said. “I didn’t talk to him personally, but I followed all the news. I cannot tell you that this was killing me, and I couldn’t sleep at night. But this was bothering me. I didn’t wanna be a person who mutilated a person or broke someone’s life. As soon as I got news that he was getting better and he woke up, and a mutual friend told me he was 95 percent like a normal person, I was glad.”
Stevenson released footage October 4 through his Instagram account of him doing light boxing training.
Gvozdyk, 32, will make the second defense of the WBC belt he won from Stevenson when he battles Beterbiev in their 12-round, 175-pound title unification fight. Gvozdyk (17-0, 14 KOs) is slightly favored to defeat Russia’s Beterbiev (14-0, 14 KOs), the IBF champion, in a main event ESPN will air from Temple University’s Liacouras Center (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.