This Friday night on ESPN, Artur Beterbiev and Oleksandr Gvozdyk square off in a highly-anticipated light heavyweight unification bout, and Kudratillo Abdukakhorov takes on Luis Collazo in a crossroads welterweight bout.
Our staffers make their picks.
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov vs Luis Collazo
I think this one’s a good deal more competitive on paper than some might expect. I have Abdukakhorov rounding out the top 10 at 147 right now, but 147, as strong as it is for seven spots, falls off hard after eight, and there’s really not much separation between No. 8 and quite a few fighters after 10. It’s not a tremendously strong claim.
Abdukakhorov also showed a likely fairly low ceiling in his last outing, a win over Keita Obara in March. He deserved the win, but he didn’t exactly leap off the screen as someone who would be a real threat to the top of the division.
Collazo, though, is definitely past his prime. He’s tough, he’s crafty, but he also had to go to war with Samuel Vargas to win in March. I think this one’s going to be entertaining, and Collazo has a legit shot to win for the 40th time as a pro, but I’m going with the younger, fresher Abdukakhorov to squeak one out. Abdukakhorov MD-10
Good ol’ Luis Collazo dies harder than Bruce Willis, doesn’t he? The 38-year-old veteran has been around the block more than a few times and just when it seems like the writing is on the wall for him, he manages to score some emphatic knockout over someone like Victor Ortiz or Sammy Vasquez to keep him in the mix. But there’s only so many close calls Collazo is going to be able to survive, I suspect. The one thing I’ve said about Collazo in recent years is that although he has a excellent right hook which can put people away, I don’t always like the number of punches he has to take to get his in.
Against a young fighter like Abdukakhorov, 26, and considering the amount of wear and tear on his body at this point, I don’t think Collazo can afford to eat many more big shots. And if Abdukakhorov really has promise at welterweight, this is exactly the kind of fight he should win. Collazo isn’t a bum fighter or anything, but he has a ton miles on him and isn’t a serious title contender in 2019. Collazo is crafty though, so somehow, someway, I expect him to make Abdukakhorov work for it. Abdukakhorov UD-10
Patrick L. Stumberg
Abdukakhorov is aggressive, entertaining, and has a name that turns experienced commentators into mush-mouths, all admirable traits. He just has that Evgeny Gradovich problem where he’d be an absolute menace if he could only punch a little harder. As is, he doesn’t seem to have enough pop to make up for some of his technical deficiencies, such as a tendency to load up on his right hand or neglect the jab at times, against skilled opposition. Even at 38 years old, Collazo looks like sufficiently skilled opposition.
Collazo can still move, is still durable, and just figures to be a fair bit sharper than his Uzbek foe. Abdukakhorov gets in his licks, but not enough sustained momentum to win the decision. Collazo UD-10
You can find Collazo at +500 (5/1) to get the victory on Friday night, which against an unproven rising star like Abdukakhorov could be overpriced. This isn’t to say that I believe the Uzbek is going to slip up in Philly. Twelve years the junior of a shop-worn Collazo, the timing is probably spot-on for “The Punisher” to pick apart the 38-year-old southpaw in what looks on paper as a classic crossroads fight.
Collazo has an impressive resume (of defeats), sprinkled with a short spell as the WBA’s secondary champ, but despite coming off the back of a fairly impressive string of victories, Abdukakhorov’s fundamentals should shine through as the Uzbek canters to a wide points win. Collazo is rough and tough and will stick in there with the four-time national amateur champion, but will become frustrated as he fades down the home stretch.
It would be good to see the whiskers of Abdukakhorov tested, with Collazo more than capable of providing some early licks. Abdukakhorov UD-10
And the staff winner is...
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (3-1)!
Artur Beterbiev vs Oleksandr Gvozdyk
Gvozdyk’s the better boxer, probably, but Beterbiev is not a complete caveman. This is very much a matchup that should come down to who can impose his will the best. Both of them are high-level fighters, both of them are tough, both of them do what they do very well.
Gvozdyk is probably the thinking man’s bet, but I am not much of a thinking man. Kind of a dummy, really. Gvozdyk is going to land, and we’ve seen Beterbiev floored by Callum Johnson, but he also roared back. Even if/when Gvozdyk gets him, he’s going to have to do something special to actually put this guy away. I like Beterbiev’s pressure, brute strength, and ability to weather Gvozdyk’s shots to eventually wear Gvozdyk out and do the job in what ends up being a fight as good as the hype. Beterbiev TKO-10
Okay, now we’ve got some real fights on the schedule that don’t have clear and obvious conclusions written all over them! Betebiev-Gvozdyk is an absolutely fantastic fight between two well-matched opponents. Beterbiev has a couple of years on Gvozdyk and is generally inactive, a little shorter, with a slight reach disadvantage, but one thing Beterbiev can do is punch! Every single one of his 17 professional fights have ended by way of stoppage and that certainly makes him dangerous. But Beterbiev has shown some vulnerability too, getting dropped by Callum Johnson last year, which makes this fight even more intriguing.
Gvozdyk is obviously a much better technician than Johnson, even if he may not have have the same raw power, but he’s shown the ability to do serious damage anyway (as was the case in that scary episode with Adonis Stevenson last year). I think this will be a close fight with a lot of exciting moments but I think Gvozdyk is just better on his feet and I expect him to be sharper considering he’s been fighting more often than Beterbiev. I’m going to take Gvozdyk by late stoppage after Beterbiev blows his load early. Gvozdyk TKO-11
Patrick L. Stumberg
You won’t be surprised to learn that I’m a fan of Artur Beterbiev, as I am of anyone that close to the Xykon Threshold who isn’t a complete knob. As such, it is with a heavy heart that I anticipate his defeat.
In addition to his overall technical edge, Gvozdyk proved his durability against a hellacious puncher in Adonis Stevenson. Obviously, Beterbiev can knock out anything with a pulse, but this does suggest that he’ll need more than a glancing shot. Conversely, we’ve seen Beterbiev’s chin buckle in the past, and though he’s always gotten back up and resumed the smashening, Gvozdyk’s combination of power and precision strike me as more than the former can take.
As much as I enjoy when puncher beats boxer-puncher, it’ll be “The Nail’s” night. Gvozdyk survives the early thunder to put his man away late. Gvozdyk TKO-9
Now, this is a match-up! Two unbeaten champions looking to unify at 175-pounds, with the added spice of a Russian/Ukrainian rivalry in as close to a 50/50 as you can get right now... Take. My. Money! Saying that, at the time of writing, no UK broadcaster has been announced for this fight which you’ve gotta admit is a real head-scratcher!
Beterbiev is the only world champion in boxing with a 100% KO record and with a well-schooled Gvozdyk in the opposite corner on Friday, I’ve got a feeling that record will have to continue if the Russian is going to get the victory. “The Nail” is looking to step out of the Loma/Usyk shadow, with the WBC champ playing second-fiddle to those two modern greats; a win against Beterbiev will put him on the right path to doing so. Gvozdyk shows great movement with a long jab looking comfortable at a distance while Beterbiev will looking to drag the Ukrainian into the pocket for a trade-off early on. Beterbiev has been hurt in the past but has proved that taking one to land two will often secure him the victory. Beterbiev will be looking for that overhand right as Gvozdyk looks to establish a rhythm with his lengthy jab.
Gvozdyk is a classy operator and if he can avoid a fire-fight in the early half of the fight, his power late on may prove crucial. Beterbiev showed against Koelling that his engine can run for 12 rounds, but I can see Gvozdyk landing the cleaner work in the championship rounds.
It’s a real pick’ em, but one that I can see Gvozdyk getting the nod in. 115-112 vibes, with a late knockdown. Gvozdyk SD-12