Artur Beterbiev unifies light heavyweight titles with TKO vs. Oleksandr Gvozdyk

Kevin IoleCombat columnist
Artur Beterbiev (L) and Oleksandr Gvozdyk compete in a light heavyweight world title unification boxing fight at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. (Getty Images)
Artur Beterbiev (L) and Oleksandr Gvozdyk compete in a light heavyweight world title unification boxing fight at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. (Getty Images)

Artur Beterbiev and Oleksandr Gvozdyk traded punches on even terms for the better part of 10 rounds of their light heavyweight title unification fight Friday in Philadelphia. But that doesn’t mean the fight was even.

Beterbiev was landing by far the harder punches and ultimately that was the difference in a competitive and entertaining battle for the IBF, WBC and lineal light heavyweight titles at the Liacouras Center.

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Beterbiev knocked Gvozdyk down three times in the 10th, prompting referee Gary Rosado to stop it after the third one, giving Beterbiev the TKO victory at 2:49 to become the unified champion. It was his 15th knockout in as many professional fights.

“This moment was my most important fight,” Beterbiev said. “I had big work to prepare for this fight. I was happy to end it.”

Gvozdyk was up 87-84 and 86-85 on two of the cards, while the third had Beterbiev 87-83, at the time of the stoppage. Yahoo Sports had it 86-85 for Beterbiev.

It was the first match for a unified light heavyweight title between unbeaten boxers in the history of the division. And they stepped up and performed at a high level.

Gvozdyk, who was stopped in the second round by Beterbiev in an amateur bout a decade earlier, was using his jab and dropping a right hand behind it. But he didn’t have the kind of thump that Beterbiev had, and power is a major factor in scoring a pro boxing match.

Beterbiev dropped Gvozdyk near the bell to end the first round, and Rosado initially ruled it a knockdown. But in between rounds, it was changed to a slip.

But the incident highlighted a strength difference between the two. Beterbiev was physically stronger and was moving Gvozdyk with his punches. Gvozdyk, who got an inspirational speech from trainer Teddy Atlas after the ninth round urging him on, was landing cleanly but not having much of an impact.

According to CompuBox, the problem for Gvozdyk is that Beterbiev landed 40 percent of his power shots, connecting on 113 of 283. That made it difficult to survive against a man who punches that hard.

Beterbiev, who said he is focused on collecting more titles, added, “When I got this second belt, I got [extra] motivation. I was training so-so before, but from now on, I will train very hard.”

Those have to be scary words for the rest of those in what is clearly one of boxing’s best divisions.

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