J.R. Jowett was ringside for the light heavyweight unification fight between Artur Beterbiev and Oleksandr Gvozdyk.
Bob Arum and Top Rank came to Philadelphia on 10/18/19 for an IBF/WBC light heavyweight “Unification” bout at the Liacouras Center of Temple U. They teamed with the Great J. Russell Peltz (Peltz Boxing) for local support.
A crowd of 3507 was well entertained by record builders that produced no upsets on the undercard but saw the prospects get some valuable experience. Then the two top bouts electrified fans with solid competitive battles.
Oleksandr Gvozdyk, 174 ¼, Kharkiv, Ukraine, via Oxnard, CA, 17-1 (14), faced Artur Beterbiev, 174 ½, a Russian fighting out of Montreal, 15-0 (15), in the scheduled 12 round unification bout. It was not a good fight for action, but made up for it in drama. The styles were a good mix, not so much for trading punches, but rather a chess match in sustaining the right moves. The tall and rangy Gvozdyk, the crowd favorite, used his long jab, but often it was more a defensive weapon to hold Beterbiev at bay rather than a take-charge weapon to set up combinations. Most of the punches by both fighters were one at a time and neither engaged in prolonged trading until action escalated in later rounds. There were a lot of ducked punches, fall inside and tie up, that kept referee Gary Rosato busy. Meanwhile, the shorter Beterbiev, fighting out of a squared stance, didn’t seem to be doing much but whatever he did was evidently working. Artur did little infighting and his punches weren’t spectacularly noticeable, but were surely doing their job.
The first round got the bout off to a controversial start. Gvozdyk quickly established a long jab that scored points and put him ahead if not in actual control. Just before the bell, Artur corralled Oleksandr in his own corner and stepped in, bringing up a left hook as his prey tied him up. The subsequent brief wrestling threw Olek to the canvas more than knocked him down, but Rosato saw the punch and gave a count. As Gvozdyk was clearly winning the round with the jab, and was heavily favored by the crowd, this brought up a storm of boos as well as Olek’s trainer, Teddy Atlas, charging into the ring to protest. It was later reported that Commissioner Greg Sirb watched the replay and nullified the knockdown call.
Gvozdyk’s jab was less effective in the second, inviting Artur to get within range and launch. Beterbiev didn’t manage to put punches together well, but one jolting right set the tone for what was to come. Again, one long right lead stung Olek in an otherwise unproductive third. Acton was better in the fourth, with Gvozdyk starting out well at long range but Artur mounting his attack and coming on the make it a tough score. Action subsided in a poor fifth, but again Beterbiev finished with more pressure. The sixth brought up the otherwise rapt but not too noisy crowd! In a reversal of pattern, Beterbiev started aggressively but once Gvozdyk got his jab going, he came on and so did the fans. The round ended once again with Olek flopping down in his own corner, but this time there was no knockdown call.
Following what was almost a pattern, action subsided in the seventh instead of playing off the big finish of the sixth. Gvozdyk landed what blows there were as Beterbiev seemed held at long range.
Once again, the eighth was a comparatively action round, with Gvozdyk working off the jab at long range and landing one good right. Possibly frustrated at Olek’s tying him up whenever he got close, Artur landed a clean left hook on a break and got bawled out by Rosato. There was good, close action to the bell.
The ninth was pivotal and the round where the Russian took complete control of what up to that point had been a seesaw and anybody’s fight. Olek strangely walked away shaking his right hand at the start of the round. From then on, there was no stopping the Russian. Beterbiev at last applied sustained pressure, crowding inside as an increasingly desperate Gvozdyk tried to shut him down by holding. A solid left uppercut-right cross stunned Olek and had him hanging on to the bell. He seemed OK coming out for the tenth, but he was finished. His legs just wouldn’t hold up whenever Beterbiev got inside and clinching no longer worked.
Gvozdyk was down four times, the first Rosato calling a rabbit punch, but no doubt about the other three. Crunching left hooks accounted for two and a chopping right to the ear signaled the ref that it was time to stop it. It was a tough fight to score through eight, and the judging seemed to prove it.
John Poturaj had the winner up, 87-83, while John McKaie and Ron McNair had Gvozdyk, 87-84 and 86-85, respectively.
The semi 10 between Kudratillo Abdukakhorov, 147 ¼, Qorgontepa, Uzbekistan, 17-0 (9), and Luis Collazo, 146 ½, Queens, 39-8 (20), was an awkward and bewildering yet all action and entertaining contest. Collazo opened by switch hitting left to right and Kudratillo spent the round trying to measure him for clobber rights behind the ear, left or right depending on which side Luis was fighting at the time. Everything changed in the second. The much bigger and muscular Collazo seemed to gain confidence and take control behind a bruising physical attack that had Abdu giving ground.
In an all-action third, Collazo was attacking vigorously while a seemingly desperate favorite was throwing back, but only in a rear guard defense. But in the close fourth, Collazo’s pressure ebbed and Kudratillo got back in the fight with sneak counters. The fight pivoted in the fifth. Collazo was now just storming around but ineffective in gaining penetration while Kudra circled and countered well. In the sixth, Luis was just following his man around and being countered while wringing his left hand as if injured. This he continued to do throughout the remainder. Good seesaw drama however as Luis again asserted effective pressure in a bruising seventh. Kudratillo’s movement and boxing outmaneuvered Luis in the eighth. Collazo tried to apply pressure in the ninth but Abdukakhorov was outboxing him.
The tenth was operatic! Abdukakhorov’s movement and boxing had gained control until the tow tied up and wrestled to the canvas, with Kudra on top and Luis suffering injuries that were ruled terminal to the contest. Not that he didn’t do an emotive job of rolling around in real or feigned agony until referee Benjy Esteves took him to see the doctor. He was cut over the right eye, possibly from a knee, and his own knees seemed to have suffered in the fall. The bout was ruled over at 2:03, with a Technical unanimous decision going to Abdukakhorov over a lot of booing from the fans. It was actually a good call. Steve Weisfeld had 97-93, Jimmy Kinney 98-92, and Dewey LaRosa a bit unforgiving at 99-91.
Michael Seals, 174 ½, Atlanta, 24-2 (18), belted out Elio Trosch, 173 ¼, Santiago del Estero, Arg., 14-9-2 (7), in 1:38 of the first of the opening eight. Fighting out of a squared stance, Trosch tried to attack vigorously and when he had Seals on the ropes, figured he had him where he wanted and set to punch. But the favorite brought up an inside left hook to dump him in a shot! Elio got up but stumbled blindly toward a neutral corner and Dali wisely called a TKO.
Josue Vargas, 140 ¼, Isabela, PR, via Bronx, 15-1 (9), won a unanimous shutout over Johnny Rodriguez, 140 ½ Denver, 9-5-1 (6), eight. Action was tame but the long-limbed southpaw favorite placed his punches well and kept the underdog at bay. Rodriguez attempted to make more of a fight of it with increased pressure in the third, but Josue just caught him coming in. By the fifth, Rodriguez seemed befuddled at his inability to get inside Josue’s long reach. But action heated up in a good seventh when the two traded at closer range. The underdog held his own for a while but was getting punished by round’s end. Vargas coasted the final round to win by 80-72 on all cards (Weisfeld, McKaie, LaRosa).
Popular Joseph Adorno, 136 ¾, Allentown, 14-0 (13), looked sharp taking out game Damian Sosa, 134 ¾, Villa Hidalgo, Arg., 9-3 (7), in 1:20 of the second of eight. Closing the first, Sosa thought he had Adorno trapped on the ropes and tried to unload. But in a sizzling, two-handed exchange, Adorno finished it off with a crushing left hook and Sosa collapsed to the canvas. He got up just in time to finish the round, then made essentially the same mistake in the second. Adorno glided along the ropes, Sosa tried to corral him, and the favorite smoothly sidestepped and dropped a right behind the ear to deck him again. Damian struggled up but was holding himself up on the ropes when referee Clark stopped it.
Joseph’s brother Jeremy Adorno, 121 ¼, Allentown, 3-0 (1), coasted to a unanimous decision over Misael Reyes, 121 ¼, KC, 1-3, in a tame four. In the second, Reyes tried to step inside of Adorno’s long southpaw reach, but Jeremy fired a left to the body and brought a right hook to the head to drop him cleanly but not badly hurt. Outboxed, the underdog tried to force a street fight in the final round but punched wide while Adorno consistently beat him with straight shots. LaRosa somehow had it 38-37, evidently penalizing Jeremy for retreat and lack of pressure, while Kinney and Allen Rubenstein had it 40-35.
A relaxed and smooth Julian Rodriguez, 142 ½, Hasbrouck Hgts., NJ, 18-0 (12), waited until the sixth and final round to get rid of game Leonardo Doronio, 139 ½, Mandaluyong City, Philippines, 17-17-3 (11), at 2:29. It was a gym workout until the third when a flashy two-hand volley by the favorite rocked the Filipino. Early in the fifth, Rodriguez caught a retreating Doronio on the end of a long left hook and made him dance, but again did not press the advantage. Finally, Julian rocked Leonardo with a combo to start the final round, then fell back into coasting until suddenly leveling him with a single crushing left hook. Doronio sprawled flat on his back and referee Esteves didn’t bother to count.
The only Philadelphian on the card, popular “Sonny” Conto, 214 ¼, 5-0 (4), crudely pummeled Steven Lyons, 201 ¾, Larose, LA, 5-6 (2), throughout the opening round of a scheduled four. Lyons did fight back and managed to extricate his way out of trouble several times when it appeared Conto was about to get him on the hook. But the underdog mysteriously quit in his corner for a TKO loss.