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Oleksander Gvozdyk hopes to dethrone Adonis Stevenson tonight

Image: Oleksander Gvozdyk hopes to dethrone Adonis Stevenson tonight

By Allan Fox: Unbeaten #1 WBC Oleksander ‘The Nail’ Gvozdyk (15-0, 12 KOs) will be looking to unseat WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis ‘Superman’ Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs) tonight at the Centre Videotron, Quebec City. Gvozdyk is seen by some boxing fans as a weak version or Oleksander Usyk. He’s viewed as a poor man’s version of Usyk and Vasyl Lomachenko. Gvozdyk has good size, boxing skills and punching power, but he’s not looked unbeatable since he turned pro in 2014. The lack of experience for the 31-year-old Gvozdyk isn’t what it should be going against an old pro like Stevenson.

(Credit Amanda Westcott/SHOWTIME)

Gvozdyk is fighting Stevenson at the right time with him coming off of a hard 12 round draw against Badou Jack last May. Stevenson getting back in the ring so soon after his war with Jack might give Gvozdyk his best chance of winning the fight. A fresh, well rested Stevenson would likely be too much for Gvozdyk just based on his physical talent advantage. But if Stevenson is battle worn from the Jack fight, it gives Gvozdyk a chance that he probably wouldn’t have normally. He’s clearly not in Stevenson’s league in the physical tools that he has. The odds-makers have Gvozdyk as the favorite, but that’s meaningless guesswork on their part. Stevenson is the better fighter of the two. What we don’t know is if Stevenson is depleted from his war with Jack. If so, then Gvozdyk has a chance to win tonight.

Although Gvozdyk has a three inch height advantage over Stevenson, his reach is two inches shorter than the champion. Some boxing fan would say that Gvozdyk has T-Rex arms. He’s got the height, but Gvozdyk’s alligator arms makes his height meaningless. Being taller without the long arms to go with the height just means Gvozdyk is going to be a bigger target for the southpaw Stevenson’s powerful left hands.

The Stevenson vs. Gvozdyk fight will be be shown on Showtime Boxing and will be streamed free on Sho Sports Youtube channel as well as Showtime Boxing Facebook starting at 7:45 p.m. ET. Gvozdyk, 31, comes into the fight as the favorite with the bettors, but he’s going to need to prove that he deserves it. Stevenson still looks like the better fighter based on their recent fights. Gvozdyk is young enough potentially to dethrone the 41-year-old Stevenson, but he’s not looked good enough to do the job. Gvozdyk will be stepping into the lion’s den in facing the Canadian based Stevenson in Quebec.

The Top Rank promoted Gvozdyk has been fighting all over the place since he turned pro in 2014. Mostly he’s been fighting in Las Vegas, Nevada. This will be Gvozdyk’s first trip to Canada, and he’s going to need to win without getting a lot of applause from the pro-Stevenson crowd that will be on hand to give him support.

“I know that Gvozdyk is a good boxer, he was a bronze medalist at the Olympics and he has a European style,” Stevenson said. “His movement is good and he has good technique but there are definitely weaknesses that I plan to exploit.”

Stevenson, 5’11”, isn’t saying what the weaknesses are for the 6’2″ gvozdyk, but it’s likely one of these areas:

– Weak punch resistance

– Slow hand speed

– Poor defensive skills

– Lack of self confidence

– Ring IQ not outstanding

Stevenson has gotten older since turning pro in 2006, but he’s still punching with huge power with his left hand, and his hand speed is second to none in the 175 lb weight class. Gvozdyk will be taking a back seat to Stevenson’s hand speed tonight. He’s not going to be nearly as fast as Stevenson, and that’s just the reality of it. Gvozdyk is a good fighter, but he’s never going to be a speed burner when it comes to hand and foot speed. Gvozdyk won’t have the same punching power as Stevenson tonight. He’s not that kind of a puncher. Gvozdyk hs good but not great punching power. He’s more of a Dmitry Bivol type of puncher, but not in the class of the hard punchers like Stevenson, Sergey Kovalev, Artur Beterbiev, Marcus Browne, Eleider Alvarez, Anthony Yarde, Joe Smith Jr. and Badou Jack. Those guys all punch harder than Gvozdyk.

“I don’t care at all that the bookmakers think I’m going to lose this fight,” Stevenson said. “I’ve been the champion since 2013 and so many people have doubted me in all of my defenses. If I let that affect me, I would have lost my belt a long time ago.”

Stevenson does not look like he’s bothered in the least about the bookmakers picking Gvozdyk to beat him tonight. Stevenson has been all smiles when in Gvozdyk’s presence for the news conferences and the weigh-in, and it’s clear that he’s not bothered in the least by the odds-makers that are guessing about the outcome of tonight’s fight. It’s safe to say that the odds-makers are picking Gvozdyk to win based on how Adonis performed in his recent 12 round war with Badou Jack (22-1-3, 13 KOs) earlier this year on May 19 on Showtime Boxing in Toronto, Canada. That fight was scored as a draw by the judges, but Stevenson looked like he won the fight in the eyes of the boxing public. Boxing News 24 scored it for Stevenson by four rounds. Jack did well in the championship rounds, but he gave away the first six rounds before he started coming on in the second half of the fight. Had Jack fought hard in the first six rounds, he likely would have been knocked out by Stevenson.

If Gvozdyk comes to fight and not just box, he’s going to need to be able to handle Stevenson’s big equalizer, that big left hand that he uses to knockout his opponents. Gvozdyk has the boxing skills to win this fight, but he’s going to need to take Stevenson’s powerful left hand all night long for him to have a chance of winning a 12 round decision. Gvozdyk is a top notch boxer when he’s focusing on playing it safe, but when he starts engaging to land his own power shots, that’s when he’s going to be vulnerable against Stevenson or any fighter in the division that has punching power. Gvozdyk was badly hurt in his last fight against Medhi Amar and in his fight with Tommy Karpency. Gvozdyk getting hurt by those limited fighters showed that he’s got a ton of flaws that are going to need to be fixed by tonight for him to have a chance of winning this fight.

Based on Stevenson’s age at 41-years-old, he’s ripe to be beaten by Gvozdyk. The older guys in their 40s are supposed to lose when they fight younger fighters that technically oriented, and have Olympic experience. However, Stevenson is still fighting at an extremely high level right now, and still faster and more powerful than Gvozdyk. Stevenson has lost some of his hand speed, but not enough for him to be slower than Gvozdyk. Stevenson is faster still, and he’s got the superior punching power and experience. As this writer mentioned already, Stevenson is fighting at home in Canada in front of his boxing fans.

Gvozdyk will be out there all by himself, just him and his training team. This isn’t a fight that will be taking plan in Ukraine. Gvozdyk will need to ignore the pro-Stevenson crowd, and try and find a way to overcome his longer reach, punching power, hand speed and experience advantage. It’s going to be very tough for Gvozdyk. He’s the equivalent of Donovan George in terms of his power, hand speed and reach. Stevenson took care of George by pot shotting him from the outside for the first 11 rounds in December 2012.

Gvozdyk is a good fighter, but his ability to take Stevenson’s left hand bombs might not be any better than past ‘Superman’ knockout victims like Andrzej Fonfara, Thomas Williams Jr., Karpency, Dmitry Sukhotskiy, Tony Bellew and Darnell Boone. Gvozdyk is a good fighter, but his punch resistance isn’t out of this world. It’s going to need to be for him to win this fight.

“I want to win this fight by knockout,” Stevenson said. “My hometown fans don’t come here to watch me fight 12 rounds, they want to see a body on the canvas. They’re always looking for the knockout and so am I. I know that all I have to do is touch him once and it’s check mate.”

Stevenson is very confident that he’s going to be able to KO Gvozdyk tonight. It’s going to be up to Gvozdyk to show that he can take Stevenson’s big power shots. This fight might end up being the opposite of how the odds-makers are predicting it to be. You’d like to think that the bettors know what they’re doing in making predictions, but they’re likely doing it based on the Stevenson-Jack fight. That means that the odds-makers believe that Gvozdyk is as good or better than Jack, and that may not be the case. Jack looks like the better fighter than Gvozdyk. Jack wouldn’t have been dropped by Tommy Karpency and buzzed by Medhi Amr the way Gvozdyk was. That’s why you have to throw out the odds-makers predictions and just on the way that Gvozdyk looked in getting dropped by Karpency and staggered by Amar. Gvozdyk beat Isaac Chilemba, but he had a guy with an injured arm. This wasn’t the healthy Chilemba that Sergey Kovalev, Tony Bellew and Dmitry Bivol fought. Chilemba is easily the best name on Gvozdyk’s entire resume. The other guys that Gvozdyk has fought have been flawed guys like Karpency, Craig Baker, Yunieski Gonzalez, Mehdi Amar and Nadjib Mohammedi. Top Rank has done a good job of matching Gvozdyk against beatable opposition.

“I believe I’m ready physically to do what I have to do,” Gvozdyk said. “I have to be quicker, smarter, more concentrated and always one step ahead of Stevenson.”

Gvozdyk is going to need to use timing to deal with Stevenson’s hand speed, as he’s not going to be able to will himself to be faster than he currently is. At 31, Gvozdyk is as fast as he’s ever going to be. He’s not going to go from being having hand speed similar to Donovan George to all of a sudden punching with the same speed as Stevenson. That’s a pipe dream on Gvozdyk’s part. It’s not going to happen. The thing that could hurt Gvozdyk the most is his lack of a good trainer. He’s trained by Teddy Atlas, and that guy might not be good enough to get him past a fighter like Stevenson. You would think that with Gvozdyk’s friendship with Oleksander Usyk, he would be trained by Anatoly Lomachenko, the father of WBA lightweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko. Anatoly would be an excellent trainer for Gvozdyk, but to have Atlas, it might not be enough for him to defeat Stevenson. Gvozdyk needs an outstanding game plan to defeat a fighter like Stevenson, and Atlas might not be capable of coming up with that kind of plan.

If the idea is for Gvozdyk to come out slugging against Stevenson, he’s not going to last very long. What we’re probably going to see Gvozdyk try tonight is to follow the blueprint that Jack used by giving away the first six rounds by judge boxing, and staying away from any exchanges with Stevenson. Then in the second half of the fight, Gvozdyk will likely try and take the fight to a tired Stevenson in hopes of possibly knocking him out or winning a decision. If the judges give Gvozdyk enough of the first six rounds when he’s playing it safe the way Jack was against Stevenson, then it’s theoretically possible that he can come on late to win a decision, but not likely to force a stoppage. To force a stoppage, Gvozdyk would need to get in the trenches and slug it out with Stevenson, and that wouldn’t be advisable with his chin. Jack was still getting hammered by Stevenson in the late rounds of their fight last May. Jack had a good punch resistance to take the heavy shots that Stevenson was continually nailing him with.

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