Monday, March 27, 2023  |


Gvozdyk makes statement with Chilemba TKO on Kovalev-Ward card

Olesksandr Gvozdyk (left) weighs in with Isaac Chilemba. (Photo by Tom Hogan/Hoganphotos)


LAS VEGAS — Oleksandr Gvozdyk has been around the world boxing. He’s experienced all kinds of styles, all kinds of movement. But the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist surely never faced anyone as herky-jerky as Isaac Chilemba. The veteran from South Africa was fighting for his life, while Gvozdyk was fighting to figure out Chilemba Saturday night on the undercard of the Andre Ward-Sergey Kovalev fight at the T-Mobile Arena.

Chilemba throws punches from strange angles. He ducks, he spins. He evokes a quasi-Floyd Mayweather shoulder roll. He leads with his head. His opponents can’t predict what he’s going to do, because Chilemba himself doesn’t seem to know what he’s going to do next. What made Chilemba even more dangerous was the fact that he lost two straight and needed to beat Gvozdyk (12-0, 10 knockouts) to prove he remained in the 175-pound discussion.

But Gvozdyk, to his credit, remained contained. He stayed in his bubble. By the seventh round, Chilemba was pretty well beaten up. He had a cut over his left eye and had a bloody nose. It appeared a matter of time before Chilemba would surrender. His corner mercifully did it for him after the eighth, when Roy Jones Jr., Chilemba’s co-trainer, stopped it, according to an HBO tweet.

According to referee Jay Nady, Chilemba (24-5-2, 10 KOs) broke his right hand.

“The left jab, the left hook, and straight right to the body worked the best,” Gvozdyk said. “No, I wasn’t nervous, because I’ve had over 250 amateur fights. My Olympic coach was Anatoly Lomachenko, who was in the locker room and Vasyl were talking to me before the fight.”

It marked the third-straight loss for Chilemba.

“I am devastated,” Chilemba said. “If I hadn’t hurt my right arm in the third round it would have been a completely different outcome. I was in an incredible amount of pain from the third round through the rest of the fight.”

Top Rank matchmaker Brad Goodman proclaimed, “A star is born,” after Gvozdyk’s victory.

Gvozdyk was ahead on all three judges’ scorecards 79-73, with each of the judges giving Chilemba the fifth round. Otherwise, it was a shutout.

Final punch stats bore out Gvozdyk’s supremacy. He connected on 140/533 (26.3 percent) total punches, to Chilemba’s 80/354 (22.6 percent). But the real key for Gvozdyk was the jab. He landed 63 of 286 jabs (22 percent) to Chilemba’s 31 of 228 output (13.6 percent).

Darleys Perez (33-2-2, 21 KOs) somehow finished in a sleep-inducing, 10-round super lightweight split draw with Maurice Hooker (21-0-3, 16 KOs). The fight was the semifinal before the Ward-Kovalev main event, a sort of deep calm before the storm.

But the scores sent a jolt through the crowd when they were read, because many at ringside in the crowd thought Perez won. The numbers bear that out. Perez outlanded Hooker 146/413 (35.4 percent) to 104/485 (21.4 percent). Perez’s jab appeared to be difference. Perez landed 69 of 239 (28.9 percent) jabs, to Hooker’s 42 of 330 (12.7 percent).

Judge Adalaide Byrd had Perez, 97-93, judge Glenn Feldman saw it a draw, 95-95, and somehow Robert Hoyle had it for Hooker, 97-93, forcing the split-draw. Hoyle gave Hooker seven rounds.

“I won the fight,” Perez said. “He’s a young lion but I know in my heart that I won the fight. I was robbed, I want a rematch.”

Hooker admitted, “It’s not my day. That’s not how I wanted to see this fight end.”

In a fight to prove his relevance, middleweight Curtis “Showtime” Stevens (29-5, 21 KOs) continues his comeback journey with a 10-round decision over James De La Rosa (23-5, 13 KOs). Stevens knocked down De La Rosa, loser of now three-straight fights and four of his last six, in the first round and made it an interesting fight at times.

“I give myself a C-minus,” Stevens said. “Could have thrown my jab a little more. I am glad I got the ‘W’ but I am a little disappointed in myself. The jab was good but I could have popped that s— a little more. Hurt my left hand in the fourth round. He’s got a hard-ass head. But I am glad I got the win.”

Stevens opened up again in the third, going after the cut on the corner of De La Rosa’s left eye. By the middle of the third, De La Rosa, who scored points for how game he was, had his left eye almost swollen shut. Referee Russell Mora let Stevens go low numerous times in the first three rounds.

At 1:14 of the eighth round, Mora finally saw enough and took a point away from Stevens for the low blows.

In the end, it didn’t matter. Stevens was far beyond De La Rosa, winning by scores of 98-90, and 96-92.

Stevens was very efficient. He landed 148/457 (32.4 percent) total punches, and 117/259 (45.2 percent) power shots. De La Rosa connected on a mere 123/672 (18.3 percent) total punches.

“I don’t have any comments,” De La Rosa said. “People saw what it was.”

In another undercard fight, Darmani Rock (6-0, 4 KOs) won a measured, requisite four-round unanimous decision over Brice Ritani-Coe (4-5-1, 3 KOs). Ritani-Coe lost for the fifth time in his last six fights, while Rock remained undefeated.

Rock used a nice jab. He even switched to southpaw temporarily. Ritani-Coe didn’t help matters. He seemed more content to last than to fight.

“I had to warm up in the first round,” said Rock, who has one of the coolest names in boxing. “I started using my jab and kept with my game plan. I switched hands from time to time, just to mess a little with his head. I think I learned from this that you can’t knock everybody out. That guy had a hard head. I loosened up on my power, and I stopped trying to knock him out.”