Explosive fight goes down in two days
By Bill Tibbs
The fists will fly in Philly in a possible F O T Y. The talk in boxing is that this one is can’t-miss. Two undefeated fighters at the top of their game. Both fighters can pack a punch. This bout is pretty much guaranteed to deliver.
WBC light heavyweight world champion Oleksandr “The Nail” Gvozdyk and IBF light heavyweight world champion Artur Beterbiev will meet in a highly anticipated title unification bout on October 18 at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Beterbiev and Gvozdyk both pack some serious power and will bring a combined record of 31-0 with 28 knockouts into the ring. While things in boxing have a funny way of playing out differently than predicted, most people feel Gvozdyk will be the boxer in this one and Beterbiev will play to his strengths as a puncher.
Beterbiev won the IBF title in 2017 and has made one defense in career that sees him at a perfect 14-0 with 14 KO’s. However, it has also seen him have large gaps of inactivity with only 14 fights in 6 years as a pro and one fight in each of the last 2 years. But, what nobody has ever questioned is his ability to pack a serious punch (as his record will attest). That is the key weapon he will look to bring in against Gvozdyk who himself has power. Mind you, logic would dictate he’d be better advised to box Beterbiev, at least early in the bout, as opposed to getting into a shootout with him.
In Gvozdyk, you also have an undefeated champion with some impressive credentials built up over 17 fights and 14 KO’s; numbers similar to Beterbiev. In March of last year he won the (interim) WBC light heavyweight title. Then, he ventured into serious enemy territory and took the full title off of long-reigning champion Adonis Stevenson in December in a stoppage win in Adonis’ hometown of Montreal, Canada. He made one defense this past March at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia against Doudou Ngumbu. Now, he’ll return to Philly to make the second defense of his title and will look to add Beterbiev’s strap to his collection.
While Gvozdyk presents as the better boxer of the two, it is the fight ending power that both possess that should make the fight interesting. Both fighters will look to land their power shots to do the damage they need to break down their opponent. But, at the same time, they need to be cautious and box intelligently so they don’t get countered with something when in punching range; in many ways a technical war.
At initial pressers for the fight both boxers expressed confidence and a desire to show who the best is at 175-pounds.
Clearly Gvozdyk has one goal in mind and that is getting all the belts. And, he feels he has one of boxing’s best trainers in Hall of Fame legend Teddy Atlas to help him get there.
“My first goal was to win a light heavyweight world title. Now, I want to unify the belts, and that mission starts with Artur Beterbiev,” Gvozdyk said. “This is going to be a spectacular fight, one that the fans will enjoy. The fans asked for this fight, and we will deliver”, continued Gvozdyk, a 2012 bronze medal Olympian. “One thing I know is that I will be the unified champion. I have the best trainer, Teddy Atlas, in my corner. This is our third fight together, and under his guidance, I will continue to get better,” he said.
Russia-born, Montreal-residing Beterbiev didn’t have any predictions, but he was certainly looking forward to getting in the ring.
“I wish to thank Top Rank and my opponent, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, for making this unification bout possible and giving the fans around the world what they want,” Beterbiev said. “This will be a great fight between the two champions who aspire to become the undisputed light heavyweight world champion. I am looking forward to stepping into the ring on October 18,” he said.
Maxboxing caught up with former light heavyweight contender John “Iceman” Scully who is in Montreal with Beterbiev helping to get him ready for the bout. Scully is assisting head trainer Marc Ramsay and assistant Luc Vincent. The trio will also be joined in the corner by longtime Montreal-based cut man Russ Anber. Scully seemed as excited as anyone about a fight that he agrees looks like a ‘can’t miss’ bout.
Bill Tibbs: Hey Ice, thanks for taking a minute to chat.
John Scully: No problem, happy to do it.
BT: Style-wise it is safe to say we have the boxer in Gvozdyk vs. the puncher in Beterbiev?
JS: Look, it doesn’t take a genius to see that you aren’t well served to be trading with Beterbiev. I always tell people that it wouldn’t take a boxing expert to see that Muhammad Ali was smart to box Joe Frazier. That is just logic. Artur is very strong and he hits very hard and everyone knows that. Teddy Atlas is a very good trainer and he’ll know that better than anyone, so we are expecting them to box but we are working hard to counter that. Sometimes fighters want to gauge a guys power but nobody needs to do that with Artur, they know what he has. Nobody wants to trade with Artur, that’s no secret.
BT: People were really excited about this fight when it was announced, there was an immediate buzz about the fight, some are predicting ‘Fight of the Year’.
JS: Artur is really excited about the fight, he is looking forward to the challenge and he is excited to unify the titles. They have a history together with both being from Eastern Europe, there is a lot of respect for each other. But, there is a lot on the line for the winner. Maybe they winner gets a shot at the Canelo - Kovalev winner? This a fight fans fight. People who know boxing know what a great fight this is.
BT: Because both fighters have power, both fighters have to really be on point all night. Could the fight play out as a more tactical bout?
JS: It might be tactical at times but sometimes a fight can break out in a fight. Artur really has the mindset of looking for the knockout from the opening bell until the closing second of the fight. I remember when he won the title, I turned to the guy sitting beside me, I can’t remember his name, as Artur was heading out for the last round, and I said, ‘Don’t be surprised if Artur knocks him out in this round’, and he did. Artur is thinking KO right up until the last second of the fight. That is just his mentality.
BT: Beterbiev has only had 15 fights in 6 years as a pro. He’s 34-years old. Is he feeling the pressure to get going as he has more years behind him than ahead?
JS: Bill, you know, Artur is a young 34 year old. Back in the early 80’s, a guy 32 or 33 was seen as really getting old as a fighter. But, things are different today. Fighters fight longer, they know about how to take care of themselves better, they know how to control weight better. Artur is a devout Muslim, he eats right, he doesn’t smoke or drink or stay out at night, he’s a married man with a family. He isn’t an early-80’s 34, he’s a 2019 version of 34.
BT: How do you see the fight playing out? Prediction time.
JS: I think he (Gvozdyk) might be difficult, stylistically, early in the fight but let me tell you Artur is a hard guy to hang with for 12 rounds. I always talk to his sparring partners and they all say the same thing, ‘He makes the ring so small, you can’t escape’. Artur is very dangerous in every second of the fight because he is thinking KO always - he is tough both mentally and physically. Don’t be surprised if Artur KO’s him before the end of the fight.
BT: Thanks for the chat Ice.
JS: No problem Bill, anytime.