By: Robert Aaron Contreras
Recently, Tyson Fury’s out-of-competition shenanigans and in-ring disappointment seem to have ramped up the talk of “lineal championships.” But the only one actually on the line this week is the light heavyweight crown between Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-0, 14 KO) and Artur Beterbiev (14-0, 14 KO), set for Friday, Oct 18, on ESPN.
Currently it is Gvozdyk with the lineage in tow. He staked his claim over Adonis Stevenson at the end of 2018. The 32-year-old former Olympian not only travelled to Quebec, Canada but ate a bevy of monster shots from Stevenson late in the fight, to overwhelm the longstanding beltholder in the penultimate round.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Boxing Twitter Account
Gvozdyk’s encore in March 2019 was another knockout—technically anyway—coming to fruition over Doudou Ngumbu. Ngumbu, an unorthodox banger, provided the champion no real challenge but indeed an unorthodox finish, injuring his leg in the fifth-round of the title tilt. Alas, the Ukrainian puncher remains undefeated—unmatched, at the top of top-heavy division.
Beterbiev will look to unseat him. Two months following Gvozdyk’s first title defense, Beterbiev matched his counterpart, finishing his own challenger in five rounds, but in more resounding fashion. The Russian bashed Radivoje Kalajdzic, who is no less a dynamite puncher. In close quarters Beterbiev’s crunching blows seem to be unstoppable.
The finish was Beterbiev’s second successful defense of his IBF title. He earned the crown over Enrico Koelling, who represented Germany in the 2012 Olympics. In Round 12, it was an overhand, cross-counter that sat Koelling on the seat of his pants where he was counted out for the only KO loss of the German’s 29-fight career.
Of the talented quartet of 175-pound titleholders, Gvozdyk vs. Beterbiev is just the unification to make. If that was not true before last weekend, Dmitry Bivol’s apathetic effort against an unheralded opponent solidified the case. Sergey Kovalev’s tangling with a middleweight does nothing to refute the matter either.
When the two best fighters in the class are pitted against each other, the trinkets and alphabet belts can seem like a moot point. But belts are currency in the fistic world. Stevenson, it should be recalled, would never had come out of hiding to face Gvozdyk if not for the Ukrainian warrior picking up the interim WBC strap.
Gvozdyk did not squander the opportunity. Fully living up to the golden era of Ukrainian boxing at hand, teaming up alongside countryman and Olympic teammates Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk in their collective siege of the sport. Beterbiev would be the legion’s toughest scalp yet.
Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (16-0, 9 KO) vs. Luis Collazo (39-7, 10 KO)
Abdukakhorov is a boxer-puncher supreme and has in the past faced opponents very dangerous but never has he met a mainstream name like Collazo.
Abdukakhorov, 26, is undefeated in his career after fighting out of the hotbed that is Uzbekistan. He has competed once this year, decisioning the spark plug fighter Keita Obara. The points win was his fourth decision victory in his last five contests—including a dominant performance over touted Russian upstart Dmitry Mikhaylenko. But while he has slowly built a fine ledger, it has not come at the ferocious pace by which he exterminated Charles Manyuchi in the first half of 2017.
The knockout was stunning, quickly taking apart Manyuchi, who is known for making opponents miss, look silly, and unable to mount significant offense. But Abdukakhorov is something special.
As it turned out, it was a one-off, equal parts accurate punching and mental lapses from Manyuchi. It remains only his second TKO since graduating to the 12-round distance and the uptick in competition that comes with that. He is simply more of a tactical fighter. Especially considering his patient attack against Obara.
Collazo prefers the walloping brand of punching, overpowering the recognizable brawler Samuel Vargas earlier this year. The win extended the experienced New York native to three consecutive wins. A middling record made up the majority of his career since losing his world title to Ricky Hatton ages ago. Collazo dropped three more fights, two of which were championship bouts.
And coming off a punishing defeat to Keith Thurman, the stage seemed set for another loss to promotional favorite Sammy Vazquez. But Collazo would have none of it, overcoming two-to-one odds, and kickstarting his current win streak and unbelievably, at 38 years old, forcing his way into the title picture.