When Oleksandr Gvozdyk knocked out Adonis Stevenson last December in Quebec City, he ended a WBC light heavyweight title reign that had lasted for five-and-a-half years, and staked his claim as the best light heavyweight in boxing today.
Now, there are certainly arguments to be made for others at the top of the light heavyweight division — given the fact they haven’t fought one another, you can make your case for Gvozdyk or Dmitry Bivol or Artur Beterbiev or Sergey Kovalev, maybe even Marcus Browne. It’s a strong division at the top.
But Gvozdyk (16-0, 13 KO) has one thing his trainer Teddy Atlas and promoter Bob Arum believe sets him apart from the pack, and that is intelligence.
In a piece at ESPN about the working relationship between Gvozdyk and Atlas — which is a good one right now — the two veteran boxing men both express their belief that Gvozdyk is a highly intelligent guy.
Atlas says of Gvozdyk:
“[He’s] a good person, a good, decent person that I enjoy being around, that I think I can help. And [he] wants to do what you’re asking them to do, that is open to coaching and at the end of the day is intelligent enough to grasp things that you are teaching him.”
Arum, asked about why Gvozdyk pairs well with the volatile Atlas when others have had issues:
“You have to understand, Oleksandr is the smartest fighter, intellectually, I have ever promoted. And he is smart enough so he can cut through Teddy’s rhetoric and get from Teddy’s instructions the gems. A regular fighter might have difficulty with that because he can’t get through Teddy’s emotions and rhetoric.”
On Saturday, the 31-year-old Ukrainian headlines in Philadelphia, facing veteran Doudou Ngumbu (38-8, 14 KO) in an ESPN main event, set to air at 10 pm ET, with prelims beginning on ESPN+ at 6 pm ET.
Ngumbu, 37, is not an ideal first challenger, at least not for fight fans. Gvozdyk is the overwhelming favorite against the veteran, who was born in the Congo and fights out of France. Ngumbu has been a fringe contender/gatekeeper sort for a long time, and is coming off of a narrow majority decision win over Switzerland’s Yoann Kongolo, who had never really been tested. In his fight before that, Ngumbu lost to Igor Mikhalkin for a third time. Against his best opponents, he has always lost, and none of them were as good as Gvozdyk.
But for the time being, it’s the fight we’ve got, a victory lap of sorts, at least on paper. If Gvozdyk does as expected this weekend, hopefully we see him in with a bigger name next.