Bill Tibbs on the relentless Artur Beterbiev
John was right on! They call him the Iceman but he was red hot in his prediction.
Former light heavyweight world title contender, John “Iceman” Scully pretty much called it right on the money last week when he said that (now WBC and IBF world light heavyweight champion) “Artur Beterbiev is a hard guy to hang with for 12 rounds”.
Last Friday night, from the Liacouras Centre, on the campus of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, that is exactly what Beterbiev turned out to be for former IBF belt holder Oleksandr Gvozdyk – a tough hang.
In summary, it was spectacular light heavyweight world title unification showdown that lived up to the much-hyped, pre-fight predictions. IBF champion Artur Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KO’s) scored a TKO 10 against WBC champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-1, 14 KO’s). After Gvozdyk was dropped for the 3rd time in the 10th round, the fight was called off before the game and gutsy Gvozdyk suffered any more damage at the hands of the hard punching, Montreal-based Russian Beterbiev.
Gvozdyk, perhaps the better natural boxer of the two, had the trainer, the fight plan, the movement, the power and the combination punching to upset the undefeated Beterbiev. But, having the tools and the recipe to find the win and being able to execute it are two very different things.
And, as Scully indicated, Beterbiev is a very difficult guy to beat because he is relentless, non-stop in his attack and, with his punching power, leaves no room for error or a lapse in concentration at anytime in the bout.
In an interview with MaxBoxing last week, Scully, always one to respect any fighter who gets in the ring, chose his words carefully. Despite being in camp with Beterbiev, and expressing confidence that his charge was going to win, Scully was quick to show respect to both Gvozdyk and his esteemed trainer Teddy Atlas.
“Gvozdyk is a great fighter and he is both a good boxer and puncher”, he said. “But, you are best served not to trade with Artur. There is no need to feel him out to see what he has; everybody knows what he has”, said Scully. “Teddy Atlas is a great trainer and he will be well aware of what Artur brings to the table and he will be preparing for that”, continued Scully. “But, let me tell you every sparring partner I speak with, after they box with Artur, says the same thing, ‘he makes the ring so small and he is very hard to get away from’.
In response to how he saw the fight unfolding, again Scully was on point.
“I think he (Gvozdyk) will be difficult for a few rounds and we expect that”, he said. “But, Artur is a hard guy to hang with for 12 rounds. He is relentless and he doesn’t stop, he is thinking KO from the opening bell to the last second”, he said.
The scores in the first half of the bout supported Scully’s predictions with Gvozdyk’s boxing, combination punching and movement allowing him to put some rounds in the bank. However, it was the hard shots to the head and body from Beterbiev later in the fight that started to take its toll on Gvozdyk.
Atlas had mapped out a perfect foil to counter the always-forward moving Beterbiev lauding his charge to “knock on the front door but come in the side door” throughout the fight. Atlas implored Gvozdyk to not be right in front of Beterbiev but instead try to catch him with hard shots from the sides where Beterbiev would have a harder time countering. Atlas also warned Gvozdyk to “be careful not to jab from too close’, wary of Beterbiev’s thunderous counter shots.
However, once Beterbiev was able to close the gap, and land the body shots that seemed to really take their toll on the California-residing Gvozdyk, one could sense the stoppage was coming.
In the end, it was a great fight between two very good fighters who both gave an impressive account of themselves. While Gvozdyk, and trainer Atlas, will undoubtedly be disappointed in the outcome, Gvozdyk fought with heart and courage and indeed tried hard to follow his coach’s instructions. Gvozdyk is a very good fighter who will be back, and a better fighter for it next time out.
So, what is next?
For now WBC and IBF champion Beterbiev, he may have to get a new year mandatory out the way before he can start looking for another belt. Or, perhaps a showdown with (win or lose, because Canelo won’t touch him if he wins) Sergey Kovalev if that fight is saleable. If not, he will definitely be looking to securing a shot ay any of the other champions. Or, former WBC light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal might create the biggest homecoming with an all-Montreal showdown between the two Quebec-based fighters.
For Gvozdyk, he will take some time off to heal up while his team decides what is next. There are a couple of good options right under the Top Rank promotional banner in Philadelphia’s Jesse Hart or undefeated, Arizona-based Trevor McCumby, both of whom would be an interesting comeback fight.
Or, don’t be surprised to see him fast-tracked into another title shot as he gave a very good account of himself against a rugged and relentless Beterbiev; fans would welcome seeing him in another championship fight. Former super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez will be looking for a 175-pound title shot before long - another interesting option for Gvozdyk.
While we enjoy an exciting and powerful champion in Beterbiev, in the midst of a great run as a pro, the best version of Gvozdyk may be in the works. Despite his disappointment in the outcome, he may well be a better fighter coming off of this bout.
Cheers to both Beterbiev and Gvozdyk for their class and respect in the build up to the fight and behaving like champions in the ring.