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Dougie’s Friday mailbag (Gvozdyk-Beterbiev, Usyk)

WBC light heavyweight titlist Oleksandr Gvozdyk (left) and IBF beltholder Artur Beterbiev
Fighters Network
18
Oct

BETERBIEV VS. GVOZDYK

Hi Doug!
Hope things are well…couple questions:

Boxing pilgrimage planned for this light-heavy unification. How do you see it playing out? Does Gvozdyk have the skill to keep Beterbiev at bay for 12 rounds? Does Beterbiev have the skill and conditioning to impose himself on the Ukrainian?

I noticed/read somewhere that Usyk turned down a Russian opponent due to the political situation between Russia and Ukraine. Outside of Joe Louis-Max Schmeling…what are the top fights that were (rightly or wrongly) made political? (With the understanding that Rocky vs Drago tops the list by default).



Bonus question: Is there somewhere in Philly that the hardcores meet after big fights? Years ago, due to a weird coincidence, I got to hang out and chat with Emanuel Augustus after his last fight in Pontiac, MI. A legend in his own way…super nice guy with great stories.

Regards. – L. Pettenuzzo, Ontario, Canada

I’ve only heard good things about fan interaction with “the Drunken Master.” I hope that shot gun injury (to the head) that Augustus took five years hasn’t hampered his ability to communicate.

I’ve never covered a fight in Philly so I couldn’t tell you where the hardcores hang out after big fights, but according to my Twitter timeline, Curley’s Pub (8929 Krewstown Road) is where fans, media and fight people have been meeting up during fight week. Just follow Steve Kim @StevESPNKim or promoter Michelle Rosado @RagingBabe or ticket broker extraordinaire Jim Boone @kotickets on Twitter tonight and I’m sure you’ll learn where the after-fight summit takes place.

Boxing pilgrimage planned for this light-heavy unification. How do you see it playing out? This is a tough one to call. Both titleholders had extensive, decorated amateur careers, both have excellent pro teams guiding them, both are tough and ring savvy. With Beterbiev we’ve got an aggressive boxer-puncher. He’s an accurate hitter, he’s got world-class power and he’s very dangerous in close. He’s got the edge in power and brute strength. With Gvozdyk we’ve got a mobile technician who’s also accurate and a decent puncher. He’s got the edge in agility and technique. Most fans view Beterbiev as a pure puncher but he can box (he can even stick and move when he needs to). I think their ring IQ and hand speed are pretty much equal, but I’m going to go with the more mobile boxer (Gvozdyk), on points or by late stoppage, because he’s got better hand placement and is harder to nail clean than the Russian, who sometimes loses focus and doesn’t always keep his hands up.

Photo / @TRboxing

Does Gvozdyk have the skill to keep Beterbiev at bay for 12 rounds? He’s got the style and technique to go rounds with Beterbiev, but I don’t know if he can go the full 12 if the Russian is at his best and if the fight becomes too physical. The key to Gvozdyk’s victory is in controlling the distance and tempo of the fight. The to Beterbiev’s victory is to pull Gvozdyk into extended exchanges and infighting.

Does Beterbiev have the skill and conditioning to impose himself on the Ukrainian? I think Beterbiev’s skill is on par with Gvozdyk’s, and I’m sure he will be in tip-top conditioning for this fight, but I do wonder how his stamina will hold out if the bout gets into the late rounds. If he fades over the second half, I think The Nail might be able to drown him in deep waters. Keep in mind that Beterbiev has only been past seven rounds once, vs. a survival-mode Enrico Koelling, who he stopped in the 12th.

I noticed/read somewhere that Usyk turned down a Russian opponent due to the political situation between Russia and Ukraine. Outside of Joe Louis-Max Schmeling…what are the top fights that were (rightly or wrongly) made political? (With the understanding that Rocky vs Drago tops the list by default). Off the top of my head Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries, Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier I, and Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney top that list, although you could say that Johnson-Jeffries and Holmes-Cooney were more social-racial politics than governmental politics, while Frazier-Ali I was more ideologically divisive (although it included governmental and racial politics). However, never has a prize fight (or any sporting event, save for maybe the USA vs. USSR game in the 1980 Winter Olympics) come to symbolize two opposing nations/governments than the Louis-Schmeling rematch.

 

THE LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT SHOWDOWN

Hi Dougie,

Hope you’re doing well.

Gvozdyk-Beterbiev, an interesting match-up of the weekend, undoubtedly one of the most anticipated, cause we, fans, are always eager for this kind of fight – of two top boxers, two unbeaten world champions, somebody’s O have to be gone fights!

Of course, Gvozdyk is a slight favorite, more complete fighter and all, but Beterbiev still remains dangerous, and if Gvozdyk had been dropped by someone like Karpency, he shure can be dropped by the most fearsome puncher in the division. And to be honest I like this guy [Beterbiev]. There’s something Tysonesque in him. I think, he has what lacks in Bivol – fierceness and destructive power, and he is the only active champion to have 100 % KO ratio. I can see either Beterbiev KO Gvozdyk or Gvozdyk convincingly decisions Beterbiev.

How do you see it playing out, and will the winner be considered unquestionably the best light heavyweight on the planet?

Thanks. All the best wishes. Enjoy the weekend. – Mike, Armenia

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Mike.

Artur Beterbiev

I favor Gvozdyk by decision in a hotly contested fight. However, I agree with everything you said about Beterbiev. He can knockout anyone in the 175-pound division. Although I should point out that while Gvozdyk was dropped by Tommy Karpency, Beterbiev was dropped by Callum Johnson, who can punch and was unbeaten at the time, but it goes to show that while the Russian is extremely dangerous in close, he’s also vulnerable to return fire/counterpunches.

But I also agree that Beterbiev has a certain charm and swagger to go with his brute power and aggression and he’s likable. I definitely think the winner of this fight will be considered the No. 1-rated light heavyweight and will likely earn a lot of new fans.

 

IS USYK THE REAL DEAL?

Hi Doug!

Been a while since I wrote in. Short and sweet. Do you feel Oleksandr Usyk can rise to the same heights as Evander Holyfield? How would he do against the competition Holyfield faced as cruiserweight? Thanks! – Pastor Roger

Holyfield compiled an 18-0 (14 KOs) record at cruiserweight (190-pound limit at the time) before transitioning to heavyweight in mid-1988. I think Usyk would have gone 18-0 against the same opposition, but maybe with fewer knockouts. I think his most difficult fights would have come against Carlos De Leon, Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Ossie Ocasio.

However, just because I think Usyk could have defeated all the cruiserweights Holyfield faced doesn’t mean I think he can equal The Real Deal’s feat of becoming undisputed heavyweight champion (and a multi-time champ). I don’t know if his chin is as sturdy as Holyfield’s proved to be. My hunch is that he can take a decent shot at heavyweight but it remains to be seen.

 

USYK SHOULDN’T RUSH TO THE HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE

Dougie,

Love the column every week. I honestly look forward to reading this at my lunch break on Monday and Friday.

To the fight this past weekend, I did not tune in live as the fight lived up to my expectations. It was a glorified sparring session that gave Usyk no real competition. He fought better cruiserweights than Chaz Witherspoon. I understand he was a very late replacement and know the whole story with him and Takam. I am upset at the fact though that he is now a WBO mandatory for the heavyweight title and they are already talking about the winner of Joshua/Ruiz II to face Usyk.

I just looked at the WBO top ten list and there are many names that should be his next fight as opposed to a shot at the title. For example Adam Kownacki or even Joseph Parker. But a shot at the title is ridiculous.

I would even rather see him fight Daniel Dubois or Michael Hunter first. He needs to fight some other opposition and get some more rounds in before even being considered.

The whole process is very broken with all of these alphabet organizations as well as with the promoters. The next fight after Joshua/Ruiz should be with Tyson Fury. Deontay Wilder is tied up with Luis Ortiz and he won’t be ready to go for quite some time after that, not to mention Al Haymon doesn’t like to fight outside his PBC circle. I really hope a little bit of time fixes this issue, but us as fight fans (especially in the heavyweight division) deserve better than this. Regards. – Andrew

It’s not as bleak as you’re making it sound, Andrew (thanks for the kind words about the mailbag column, by the way). The rematches we have on deck – Wilder-Ortiz, Ruiz-Joshua and, fingers crossed, Fury-Wilder (if the Bronze Bomber defeats Oldman Kong again) – make for some VERY compelling heavyweight action.

I agree that Usyk shouldn’t receive an immediate WBO-mandated shot at the Ruiz-Joshua winner, but I understand why he and his management would gladly take that opportunity – he’ll be 33 in January and there’s a boatload of money on the line, not to mention history and legacy.

I’d prefer to witness him earn a legit heavyweight ranking (The Ring Ratings Panel voted not to include him in the top 10

Hunter nails Usyk during their 2017 cruiserweight fight. Photo / @HBOBoxing

following the Witherspoon victory) before he goes after one of the Big Four (Fury, Wilder, Ruiz or AJ). The heavyweights you mentioned would all be suitable opponents, but I think Parker (who has recovered enough from his freakish spider bite incident to resume training and says he’d like to schedule a fight before the end of 2019) would present the sternest test for him.

I don’t see Kownacki (who I think Usyk would box silly) taking a fight with the Ukrainian southpaw given that he’s in line to face Wilder (or Ruiz) sometime next year as part of the PBC realm. Dubois presents a challenge with his size and athleticism, but the British prospect is still green and has yet to beat even a legit fringe contender. (I can see Usyk outclassing the 22-year-old only to have some fans say “So what?”)

A rematch with Hunter is an interesting matchup. The American has won six in a row at heavyweight since suffering his lone pro loss to Usyk (a very game effort in 2017), and I think he’s looked good. Word is that Hunter might face Alexander Povetkin in December, and if he wins that crossroads match I’d be into a return bout vs. Usyk.

 

GVOZDYK VS. BETERBIEV

Hi Doug,

After being spoiled with Spence-Porter (all the best wishes to Spence, here is praying that his injuries are not career ending) and GGG-Derevyanchenko, I think that we have another potential show stopper on our hands in Gvozdyk-Beterbiev so I hope people aren’t sleeping on it.

Both have extensive amateur backgrounds. Both, especially Beterbiev, can punch. Both can be hit as well. Add to that the fact that they have contrasting styles and this fight seems like a win-win situation for the fans.

Against Stevenson, Gvozdyk also showed the innate sense of knowing when to stop boxing and finish a hurt opponent, which I like. He does not have the greatest head movement although he tends to use his footwork to get out of the way.

Beterbiev is as strong and tough as they come. Everything he throws seems to hurt and he doesn’t fade late in the fight, as we saw against Koelling. Although he went down against Johnson, he wasn’t hurt and just continued his forward march, so I think his chin is solid. In fact, he reminds me somewhat of Murat Gassiev. Do you see the resemblance, style wise?

On the downside, Beterbiev’s defense isn’t the greatest and he is on the slow side as well. Friday will be the first time he faces someone with the mobility, speed and power of Gvozdyk or am I missing some opponent in his past?

Gvozdyk did face an explosive puncher in Adonis Stevenson but it is hard to forget the fact that Stevenson was 41 years old and coming off a war with Badou Jack that he barely survived. What will happen when Beterbiev nails Gvozdyk the way Stevenson did, but does what Stevenson couldn’t do which is to follow him to the ropes and stay on him?

However, Gvozdyk has a height and reach advantage which, coupled with his footwork, can be the crucial difference in this fight. He must box in a similar fashion as he did against Stevenson, keep Beterbiev unsettled with his jab and straight right and stay away from the ropes and corners. He must give Beterbiev something to think about before going in, without staying in the pocket too long.

Stylistically, this fight may resemble the Oleksandr Usyk-Murat Gassiev fight. However, I don’t think Gvozdyk is on Usyk’s level, while Beterbiev, like Gassiev, is very strong at the weight so I think it will be much more competitive.

I expect Gvozdyk’s faster feet and jab to give Beterbiev trouble and enable the Ukrainian to steal the early rounds, but I also think that Beterbiev will get to him at some stage in the middle rounds and have him in trouble. I wouldn’t be shocked if Gvozdyk gets stopped, but my gut feeling is that he will find a way to survive and stick to the game plan.

I am going with Oleksandr Gvozdyk to win a decision in a highly competitive fight.

Who do you have?

Mythical Matchups:

Azumah Nelson vs Tony Lopez

Carl Froch vs Thulani “Sugarboy” Malinga

Regards and keep up the good work! – Droeks Malan, South Africa

I’ll go with Nelson and Froch by close but unanimous decision.

I agree with your Gvozdyk-Beterbiev analysis and prediction. But I don’t have a horse in this race. I don’t care who wins. I just don’t want any controversy or anyone to get seriously hurt.

Beterbiev is as strong and tough as they come. Everything he throws seems to hurt and he doesn’t fade late in the fight, as we saw against Koelling. True, but keep in mind that Koelling didn’t put up much of an offense or dare to pressure Beterbiev. The Russian tank will have deal with a lot more from Gvozdyk.

Although he went down against Johnson, he wasn’t hurt and just continued his forward march, so I think his chin is solid. I think Beterbiev was buzzed from the hook that put him down during an exchange vs. Johnson, and you’re wrong about him continuing his forward march. Beterbiev gave up ground whenever Johnson was able to catch him with hooks or land the occasional lead right. I thought his ability to control distance on the game Brit and punch on the fly when he needed to was a good thing.

In fact, he reminds me somewhat of Murat Gassiev. Do you see the resemblance, style wise? Yes, a little bit, but Gassiev defends better with his high guard and Beterbiev is the better ring general.

On the downside, Beterbiev’s defense isn’t the greatest and he is on the slow side as well. He’s there to be hit but I think his hands are deceptively quicker than they appear.

Friday will be the first time he faces someone with the mobility, speed and power of Gvozdyk or am I missing some opponent in his past? No, you’re right. He faced former beltholders who USED to be fast and mobile (like Campillo) or strong and powerful (like Cloud) but they were both shopworn by the time he faced them.

Four months defeating Adonis Stevenson, Oleksandr Gvozdyk (left) was back in the ring against Doudou Ngumbu.

Four months defeating Adonis Stevenson, Oleksandr Gvozdyk (left) was back in the ring against Doudou Ngumbu.

Gvozdyk did face an explosive puncher in Adonis Stevenson but it is hard to forget the fact that Stevenson was 41 years old and coming off a war with Badou Jack that he barely survived. True, and Stevenson didn’t put any hard pressure on Gvozdyk.

What will happen when Beterbiev nails Gvozdyk the way Stevenson did, but does what Stevenson couldn’t do which is to follow him to the ropes and stay on him? Good question. In my opinion, he’s going to have to fire back if he allows himself to be put in that situation. He’ll be a sitting duck if he just covers up. Maybe he can tie-up Beterbiev if he gets bulled to the ropes or in trouble, but I’m not sure he can match the Russian’s physical strength.

However, Gvozdyk has a height and reach advantage which, coupled with his footwork, can be the crucial difference in this fight. Agreed.

 

GREAT STRETCH OF BOXING

Doug,

Can you remember a better stretch of main events than those over the next few weeks? (And I had forgot about Gonzalez-Stevenson until I just checked the fight schedule!). – Gordon

I’m looking forward to that featherweight fight. October 26 will be lit, as the kids say. The final months of 2019 are going to zip by.

I can’t recall so many quality fights concentrated in a two-to-three-month span. I remember 2000 and 2001 featuring several bigtime events and elite-level matchups but they seemed to be spread out throughout the 12 months of each year.

 

THE BOXING SCHEDULE & XU CAN

Hi Doug,

I hope you and your Family are well.

This being a slower Week (except from Friday) I was looking ahead to the Schedule from the Rest of the Year, and I was excited to see the Schedule from November 23.

Not only do we have the Wilder vs Ortiz rematch, but we also have the Monster back in America 😀

And nope this time it isn’t Inoue we are talking about it is the Chinese Monster Xu Can.

Man, I like this guy, his fight against Rojas is still in my Top 5 for Fight of the Year. I rewatched it again and I am still amazed about the output these 2 fighters had at that night, both had thrown over 100 punches in a Round, it still blows my mind.

What can you tell me about Manny Robles, I never watched him before, are we in for another cracker?

Tell Roberto Diaz thanks for bringing him back on DAZN. He always does a great job with putting up interesting Fight Nights.

I hope Xu Can gets a Big Fight next year. He deserves it. Do you think he will get a shot at the Big Names in the Division? – Greetings Andy

I’m not sure. The division is divided by promotional/network/platform allegiances and it’s also in flux as Leo Santa Cruz and Oscar Valdez are headed to the 130-pound division, while Gary Russell Jr. and Carl Frampton could be headed north on their heels.

If Joet Gonzalez comes through against Shakur Stevenson (big ask), he’ll earn the WBO belt, so an in-house (Golden Boy) title unification bout could be put together for Xu Can, and if the Chinese star were to prevail there, my guess is that a further

Xu vs. Shun Kubo (Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images)

unification bout with relentless Englishman (and IBF beltholder) Josh Warrington could be made (despite his being on the Frank Warren/ESPN side of the street – bottom line is that Warrington wants a big fights and unifications, so I’m sure he’d push for it to happen).

But first things first. Xu has got to get past Robles and that won’t be easy. Robles is a skilled technician and counterpuncher. He’s quick, crafty and accurate, and he’s been in some tough 10-round fights recently, so he’s ready for the 12-round distance.

But don’t fret too much for your guy. Robles is undefeated but he’s not unbeatable. He squeaked by with split nods in his last two bouts, and his last bout, vs. unbeaten but unheralded Rigoberto Hermosillo, proved that he can be troubled by hard pressure and volume punching. And guess what? Xu is bigger, stronger and probably better conditioned than Hermosillo who got up from an opening round knockdown and set a torrid pace for Robles, who faded down the stretch. Click here to check it out (it was a good scrap – courtesy of our favorite matchmaker, Robert Diaz).

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter and IG at @dougiefischer, and watch him on Periscope every Sunday from SMC track.

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