Much has been made of the Ukrainian boxing team at the 2012 Olympics, and for good reason.
Both Vasyl Lomachenko (6(4)-1) and Oleksandr Usyk (10(9)-0) medaled there, and both now hold world titles. Oleksandr Gvozdyk (11(9)-0) was also a medallist, and he’s knocking on the door of world title contention.
But does Gvozdyk have the same potential as Lomachenko and Usyk?
The light heavyweight division has really heat up over the past few years. According to BoxRec, the top 10 are:
- Sergey Kovalev
- Adonis Stevenson
- Andre Ward
- Nathan Cleverly
- Eleider Alvarez
- Joe Smith Jr.
- Oleksandr Gvozdyk
- Jean Pascal
- Andrzej Fonfara
- Isaac Chilemba
We can debate whether Stevenson should really be regarded as #2 because most people believe Ward should be either #1 or #2. Either way, this debate will be moot by the time Saturday comes around.
As you can also see, both Gvozdyk and Chilemba are in the top 10. Gvozdyk has earned his place within his last two fights (as explained in the next section). Chilemba has lost his last two fights, but he’s lost them in about the best way possible.
Assuming Gvozdyk wins his next fight — and this really a big assumption — he probably is the best opponent for Kovalev-Ward.
Stevenson and Alvarez are PBC fighters, and it’s extremely unlikely they’ll find their way on HBO. Cleverly probably has a rematch with Juergen Braehmer coming up. Joe Smith Jr. is booked for Bernard Hopkins. Pascal already got the tar beaten out of him twice by Kovalev. Fonfara is coming off a TKO1 loss to Smith Jr., and should probably re-build.
Thus, in the top 10, Gvozdyk really is the best possibility for the winner of Kovalev-Ward. Therefore, let’s get to know him.
With a 220-30 record, Gvozdyk’s amateur experience is extensive. But what’s more impressive is how he performed at the World Series of Boxing. Over two seasons, Gvozdyk compiled a 9-0 record.
Now a pro for the past three years, Gvozdyk has drastically stepped up his level of competition — and has succeeded with flying colours. He KOed Nadjib Mohammedi in two rounds, and did so in dramatic fashion. Last July, Gvozdyk faced Tommy Karpency. In that fight, he was dropped in R1 but Karpency took a knee in R6 and was counted out.
Gvozdyk is now facing Isaac Chilemba (24(10)-4-2). Chilemba may have lost his past two fights, but he performed relatively well. Against Sergey Kovalev, he’s one of the few to make the distance. As far as his loss to Eleider Alvarez is concerned, that was a real nip and tuck affair.
Gvozdyk is trained by Robert Garcia, who’s also trained numerous world titlists including Marcos Maidana, Nonito Donaire, and Antonio Margarito. Even so, Gvozdyk fights in the same style that’s common amongst Ukrainians. He’s athletic, well-balanced, and has power.
One thing that makes Gvozdyk different from Lomachenko or Usyk is that he’s much more of a counterpuncher. Certainly, he’s not afraid to press the action when the occasion calls for it, but it’s when he counters that the real magic happens. If you want to see what I mean, watch his stoppage of Mohammedi where he used his counter right hand to great effect.
If there is a flaw in Gvozdyk it’s that he might be all too willing for war. In order to land those counters, he’s sometimes willing to eat some punches. That may have been why was dropped by Karpency.
Every prospect has his learning experience. Hell, both Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward had their learning experiences in a common opponent: Darnell Boone. Hence, Chilemba is just the guy Gvozdyk should be facing in that he’s as good as it gets as a gatekeeper.
Last year, Chilemba defeated another unbeaten prospect in Vasly Lephikhin, who was heavily hyped at the time. I like Gvozdyk’s potential, but if he was dropped by Karpency in his last fight, how will he perform against Chilemba?
For that matter, how likely is it that Gvozdyk could succeed against someone like Andre Ward?