Gvozdyk and Beterbiev to Battle in Light Heavyweight Unification Bout

WBC champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk will fight IBF title-holder Artur Beterbiev in a light heavyweight unification bout on Friday in Philadelphia.

Updated: Oct. 16, 2019 • 3:35 PM ET

Oleksandr Gvozdyk is looking to avenge an early career loss to Artur Beterbiev.

A light heavyweight unification bout will take place in Philadelphia this Friday, as WBC champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk will fight IBF title-holder Artur Beterbiev.

Gvozdyk is coming off a fifth-round TKO victory over Doudou Ngumbu in March, his first defense of the WBC title. The 32-year-old won the title in memorable fashion when he knocked out longtime champion Adonis Stevenson in the 11th round of their 2018 fight. Stevenson entered the bout as the reigning champion since 2013, and the two put on a quite a show until Gvozdyk landed a straight right in the 11th that put Stevenson down for good.

As a result of the knockout, Stevenson suffered a catastrophic brain injury that required emergency surgery. He spent weeks in a medically induced coma, but thankfully has since recovered and recently posted a video to his Instagram account of himself back hitting the punching bag just 10 months after suffering the injury.

Meanwhile, Gvozdyk is undefeated as a professional (17-0, 14 KOs), but will face the toughest challenge of his career in Beterbiev. Not only is Beterbiev an undefeated champion, he defeated Gvozdyk 10 years ago as an amateur. Gvozdyk, however, isn’t worried about what happened in the past and knows he’s now in the best position to unify the titles.

“It’s not personal, because I don’t know him personally,” Gvozdyk said in a recent interview with iFL TV. “I respect him as a fighter, but I don’t know him as a person. Yeah, he was better 10 years ago and I was fighting with a broken nose, but I’m not looking for excuses.

“Right now its different time, different boxers. We are both different, and it was 10 years ago, so we will see.”

Gvozdyk is certain that it will be a great fight and fans won’t be disappointed.

"My first goal was to win a light heavyweight world title,” Gvozdyk said in a press release. “Now, I want to unify the belts, and that mission starts with Artur Beterbiev. This is going to be a spectacular fight, one that the fans will enjoy.

“The fans asked for this fight, and we will deliver. One thing I know is that I will be the unified champion. I have the best trainer, Teddy Atlas, in my corner. This is our third fight together, and under his guidance, I will continue to get better."

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Including Stevenson and Ngumbu, Gvozdyk has notable victories over Isaac Chilemba, Yunieski Gonzalez, Craig Baker and Mehdi Amar; but no victory would be greater than defeating Beterbiev to unify the belts. Not only would a win avenge a loss, it would also set Gvozdyk up for a big time showdown with either WBA champion Dmitry Bivol or WBO champion Sergey Kovalev. The latter would be assuming Kovalev defeats middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez in November. Should Alvarez win, however, it could cause quite a mess at the top of the light heavyweight division because many experts don’t believe he’ll defend the title if he wins.

Most recently defeating Radivoje Kalajdzic by fifth-round knockout in May for his second defense of the IBF title, Beterbiev (14-0, 14 KOs) has finished all 14 of his fights. He won the vacant belt with a 12th-round knockout of Enrico Koelling in 2017, and his first defense was a fourth-round knockout of Callum Johnson a year ago.

Beterbiev has made it clear he’s only focused on winning Friday and not on who his future opponents might be.

“When I fight, I truly block out everything else,” Beterbiev told BoxingScene.com. “I’m always focused on just my fight when I train. I know (Gvozdyk) is a champion because he is who I’m fighting next.

“I don’t even remember (fellow titlists Dmitry Bivol and Sergey Kovalev) until their names are mentioned to me.”

The 34-year-old fighter was a member of the Russian Olympic team in 2012 and won gold at the World Championships in 2009. Including Gvozdyk, Beterbiev also has a win over Kovalev as an amateur. Nevertheless, he’ll have a chance to prove he’s an elite professional on Friday.

• Start time/how to watch: The main card can be seen on ESPN at 10 p.m. ET this Saturday

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