Fight Preview: Oleksandr Gvozdyk vs Artur Beterbiev

On Friday, October 18th, IBF Light Heavyweight Champ Artur Beterbiev (14-0, 14KOs) will face off against WBC/Lineal Champ Oleksandr “The Nail” Gvozdyk (17-0, 14KOs) at the Liacouras Center, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This should be a treat for fans. We rarely get to see two top undefeated champions putting it all on the line for a unification.

Artur Beterbiev is coming off a KO5 victory over Radivoje Kalajdzic (24-2, 17KOs) back in May of this year. Beterbiev sports a 100% KO rate, which is very rare in boxing. He does only have 14 professional fights though, so with more fights, that percentage will certainly drop. He’s not just a knockout machine, but he’s also a very skillful boxer, who had a very good amateur career, including a trip to the 2012 Summer Olympics held in London. He is very tough and has a relatively good chin, having only been dropped twice in his professional career. He uses this toughness to walk down his opponents and close in for the kill. He’s on a seek and destroy mission every fight.

Last 2 minutes before Stevenson was knocked out by Gvozdyk

Oleksandr Gvozdyk is coming off a TKO5 win over Doudou Ngumbu (38-10, 14KOs). Before that fight, he beat long time light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson (29-2-1, 24KOs). Stevenson was knocked out and later fell into a coma as a result of that fight. It promptly ended his career, That fight is where we knew Gvozdyk was the real deal. Gvozdyk had a similar path to this point. He had an elite amateur career, including a bronze medal win for Ukraine in the 2012 Summer Olympics. He has three more professional fights than his opponent. Unlike his Beterbiev, he’s a little more calculated. He doesn’t just walk through the storm and take everything to give everything. He’s a very fundamental boxer, and is known for his counter-punching. And while he’s a really good boxer, he also isn’t afraid to bang on the inside. He has good power and he is capable of hurting Beterbiev.

Beterbiev ice cold during stare down

Keys to Victory for Beterbiev:

  • Cut off the ring. Beterbiev will need to cut off the ring, and try to force Gvozdyk to fight his fight. Beterbiev wants to smother any jabs, or any punches that will allow Gvozdyk to control the range. He’s the shorter guy and he will want to get on the inside. He wants to walk down Gvozdyk without getting countered too much, and seek and destroy.
  • Work the body. Gvozdyk is very slick. If Beterbiev is able to get him to engage on the inside, then Beterbiev should work combinations to the body, slowing down his opponent and forcing him outside of his comfort zone.
  • Use his physicality and outwork him. While Beterbiev has underrated boxing skills, he isn’t more skilled than Gvozdyk. He will have to get physical, do all of the above, force the action, even if he has to take a little to give a lot. He will need to throw punches in bunches. He needs to be a machine for this fight. When it’s almost impossible to outbox someone, you outwork them. That’s how you win. Beterbiev is not known for high volume punch output. He more so picks his spots and makes his punches count. But, in a fight like this, he may want to add a bit more to his combinations. He will also want to test Gvozdyk’s chin early, if he can work his way into good range. Gvozdyk has looked slightly vulnerable before. It’s all about landing a flush shot, but that’s easier said than done.
Gvozdyk interview

Keys for to Victory for Gvozdyk:

  • Establish the jab early. He’s the taller fighter here. he has a 3 inch reach advantage and he knows his opponent will want to fight him in a phone booth. Gvozdyk is the superior boxer, so he needs to use his toolbox. Control the range, keep the fight on the outside. When Beterbiev rushes inside, he will want to pivot to the side and jab. Once he gets into a rhythm, he should mix in crosses and power shots to complement those jabs.
  • Counter-punching. “Make em miss, Make em pay.” – If Gvozdyk can successfully counter Beterbiev as he tries to swarm inside, this will play a serious role in the outcome. He needs to counter him early, making Beterbiev respect him and forcing him to think twice before trying to trade blows. Beterbiev has such a solid chin, that he may just take the counters to deliver his own punishment. If that does happen, then he will need to use his footwork to turn his opponent, land his own combinations and reset on the outside.
  • Go to the body. Beterbiev is relentless and Gvozdyk will want to take something off that, especially if this fight goes the full 12 rounds, which I think it could. Gvozdyk can mix in the body work when he’s countering and turning Beterbiev. He should look for the straight right to the body, and then come over the top with the left hook. Gvozdyk throws a lot of shots from awkward angles which throw his opponents off balance.

This is a very interesting fight. It’s very difficult to decide on a winner. There’s one guy I like a little more, but I wouldn’t put money on the fight if that makes sense. It’s a true 50/50 toss up. Gvozdyk has the better resume, with his slaughter of Adonis Stevenson. Beterbiev might not have the same resume and might be less technically sound than his opponent, but he’s very powerful, accurate, tough, and has very good chin. It’s one of those, “you really don’t know until you see it happen” type of fights. It depends how each fighter approaches the fight. Does Gvozdyk decide to bang inside? Does his chin hold up? Can he avoid Beterbiev’s power? I think he can and I think he only bangs inside when he has to. Gvozdyk will use his footwork and technique to his advantage while mixing in some grittiness at times. My prediction: Gvozdyk by decision (either MD or UD).

The fight will be shown on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. The main card will begin at 10:00pm ET. The undercard will begin at 7:00pm ET.

For more on this story, boxing news and analysis follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.