With the recent Jose Ramirez vs Maurice Hooker fight and the upcoming Errol Spence Jr vs Shawn Porter bout, it seems that unifying titles is in fashion at the moment. Now we can add the WBC/IBF Light-heavyweight title unification battle between Russia's IBF champion Artur Beterbiev and Ukraine's WBC champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk on October 18th in Philadelphia.
This is the best matchup the division has seen since Sergey Kovalev fought two controversial fights with Andre Ward in 2016-2017. Beterbiev and Gvozdyk are both unbeaten and well established as the top two 175lb champions.
Beterbiev has had a stop-start career that saw him turn professional in June 2013 after a highly successful amateur career. After six years he has only had 14 pro contests, all wins and all by knockout, but this was largely due to a promotional disagreement with Canadian promoter Yvon Michel that has been resolved in court. Beterbiev is now with Bob Arum's Top Rank group who promote this fight.
Gvozdyk won a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics and took part in the World Series of Boxing, never losing a single bout, so his amateur achievements are at least equal to Beterbiev's. The Ukrainian has had just 3 more fights than the Russian since turning pro in April 2014. With 14 wins by knockout in his 17 bouts unbeaten career, the man nicknamed "The Nail" is very evenly matched with Beterbiev, it is hard to separate them.
Gvozdyk and Beterbiev are both hard punchers that can end a contest at any stage, both are highly skilled boxers, the one factor that separates them for me is the level of opposition they have faced as professionals. The most recognisable name on Beterbiev's record is Tavouris Cloud, the former IBF champion. Beterbiev faced Cloud in just his 6th fight, a little over a year after he started his paid career, but this fight was the 3rd successive defeat for Cloud who never fought again.
Another good win for the Russian was his 12th round stoppage of Germany's Enrico Koelling to win the title in November 2017. In his last fight, Beterbiev showed that he could come back from a knockdown when Callum Johnson decked him in the 2nd round. Beterbiev had floored Johnson in the 1st and got up in the 3rd to stop Johnson in the following round to take the win.
Gvozdyk's record includes familiar world title contender's Tommy Karpency and Isaac Chilemba, but it was his title-winning effort against long-time WBC champion Adonis Stevenson that shows him fighting at a level that we have not seen from Beterbiev thus far. Stevenson was fighting in his hometown and making his 10th defence of the title he won in 2013 from Chad Dawson.
It is Gvozdyk's superior opposition that for me makes him favourite to win what I think will be a fight of the year candidate. I can see the scenario where both fighters feel the canvas on their backs.
Prediction: Gvozdyk to stop Beterbiev inside 10 rounds.