PHILADELPHIA – Artur Beterbiev accepted as soon as he was offered a fight against Oleksandr Gvozdyk.
According to Marc Ramsay, Beterbiev’s trainer, Gvozdyk was the only one of boxing’s three other recognized light heavyweight champions willing to fight his rugged Russian knockout artist. Whatever happens in their 175-pound title unification fight Friday night, Ramsay and Beterbiev appreciate Gvozdyk’s readiness to put his title on the line against a powerful opponent who has won each his 14 pro bouts by knockout.
“Gvozdyk was the only champion who said yes to that challenge,” Ramsay told BoxingScene.com on Wednesday, “because we challenged the other guys before that negotiation. And he said, ‘Yeah!’ I have a lot of respect for that.”
The 34-year-old Beterbiev would’ve welcomed showdowns with WBA champ Dmitry Bivol or WBO champ Sergey Kovalev as well.
Russia’s Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KOs) understandably pursued a career-high, eight-figure payday for his fight against Canelo Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs) on November 2 in Las Vegas. Russia’s Bivol (17-0, 11 KOs) defeated Dominican contender Lenin Castillo (20-3-1 15 KOs) by 12-round unanimous decision Saturday night in Chicago, in what was another optional title defense for him.
Ukraine’s Gvozdyk (17-0, 14 KOs) is slightly favored to beat Beterbiev at Temple University’s Liacouras Center. They’ll fight for Gvozdyk’s WBC championship and Beterbiev’s IBF belt in a main event ESPN will televise (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
“We have a very, very good opponent in front of us, the best opponent Artur will fight as a professional,” Ramsay said. “He’s a very complete fighter, a good technician, good speed, decent power. Also, I think, physically, he’s stronger than what people think. But we had a very good training camp, and we’re just looking forward for Friday night now.”
Gvozdyk impressed Ramsay in defeating Adonis Stevenson (29-2-1, 24 KOs), another dangerous, Quebec-based light heavyweight champion. Gvozdyk knocked out Stevenson in the 11th round of their December 1 bout at Videotron Centre in Quebec City, Canada.
“He managed that fight well, especially the distance,” Ramsay said of Gvozdyk’s performance versus Stevenson. “He was moving around Stevenson nice, bringing Stevenson the angles that he wanted. They’re kind of similar a little bit. They like to touch and control distance a little bit before they throw the big one. They play a little bit the same game, Stevenson and Gvozdyk.”
Ramsay wasn’t sure what would happen when Gvozdyk traveled to Stevenson’s backyard.
“To me, that was a 50-50 fight,” Ramsay said. “Because I know Gvozdyk. I followed him since he was a very young amateur. I still follow amateurs a lot and I saw all of his [World Series of Boxing] fights. I look at everything, and I knew he was a serious and real challenger for Stevenson, no doubt.”
Even though Ramsay is confident Montreal’s Beterbiev will overcome Gvozdyk, the veteran trainer knows that the skillful Gvozdyk will present a real challenge for his fighter, too.
“I respect the guy,” Ramsay said of Gvozdyk. “First of all, he’s the type of boxer who wants to challenge himself. He wants to go for the best fight possible. I have a lot of respect for that.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.