Oleksandra Gvodzyk fights vitual unknown Dondou Ngumu on Saturday
By Vikram Birring
Ukranian light heavyweight titlist Oleksandr Gvodzyk returns to the ring this weekend against unknown Doudou Ngumbu of France by way of Congo. The location of the card, Philadelphia, seems odd, but most of the undercard bouts are those of prospects hailing from the city: Ray Robinson, Donald Smith, and Sonny Conto. In addition, two of the other undercard boxers, Joshafat Ortiz and Jeremy Adorno, are from Reading and Allentown. One presumes they will be selling the majority of the tickets.
2300 Arena, located in south Philadelphia, made its name in the 1990’s as the home of Extreme Championship Wresting, an infamous wrestling organization known for antics such as barb wire and flaming table matches, and developing talent that later became superstars in WWE. In recent years, it’s moved up to hosting Philadelphia Fashion week and the Philadelphia Eagles ring ceremony. But, it’s also held many boxing events, four in 2017 and four this far this year. Local legend J Russell Peltz is the man who came up with the idea of doing boxing in the intimate venue.
Returning to the main event, Gvodzyk is making his first appearance since he wore down and stopped longtime titlist Adonis Stevenson, to the point that Stevenson has been hospitalized ever since. Usually, boxers who face such tragedy are never the same afterwards, tending to be gun-shy in order to not cause such damage to their opponents. The examples are many: Gabriel Ruelas, Ray Mancini, and Chris Eubank come to mind, ferocious boxers who never had the same zest after their opponents were permanently or fatally damaged. Even referees involved in such bouts cannot bear with the guilt; Richard Green and Mitch Halpern committed suicide after Mancini and Ruelas’s fatal matches.
The bout against Stevenson seemed wrong since it was announced, an older, inactive boxer who had been fighting overmatched opposition fighting a strong, young, hungry opponent for the first time in several years. It seems Stevenson’s pride got in the way of logic, wanting to prove the critics wrong by taking on his mandatory instead of paying him off as he had done to so many other opponents. Rumors in boxing stated he didn’t train seriously for Gvodzyk; this only compounded to the story. Gvodzyk was simply too young and energetic, outwilling his older opponent minute after minute. Stevenson had one last vintage moment, a huge left cross in the tenth round that sent Gvodzyk careening backwards. But that was his last bullet, and Gvodzyk proceeded to leave him crumpled on the canvas just minutes later.
To add to the intrigue, Gvodzyk had recently hired Teddy Atlas, a well-known trainer, but whose results have been questionable the last two decades. Even those boxers with whom he had success have nothing good to say about him after the fact. Yet, Gvodzyk and Atlas seemed to work well together, perhaps since the spotlight was for once not shining on Atlas, the light he so craves.
The opponent is a total unknown, even to those who follow boxing well. He was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but lives in France. He is a world traveler of sorts, having fought in France, South Africa, Ukraine, Monaco, Russia, Belgium, and Poland. He has eight defeats, many to world level fighters such as Andrzej Fonfara and Isaac Chilemba. He also has a couple of unexpected victories, like his last bout against Yoann Kongolo and others against Vyacheslav Uzelkov and Bilal Laggoune.
But most odd of all is a trilogy against Igor Mihalkin, best known for being crushed by Sergey Kovalev. So, he will come to fight, but unless Gvodzyk is truly mentally scarred to the point he does not want to fight, does not have much of a chance to win, though he will try.