Gvozdyk was leading on two cards at time of stoppage, 87-84 and 86-85. Beterbiev was ahead 87-83 on third card. #BeterbievGvozdyk— Mike Coppinger (@MikeCoppinger) October 19, 2019
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Russia’s Artur Beterbiev on Friday moved to 15-0 with 15 knockouts, defended his IBF light heavyweight title and added the WBC championship to his collection, all on ESPN. It is safe to say he had a good night.
While Oleksandr Gvozdyk can punch, this boxer-puncher matchup resulted in the Ukrainian doing whatever he could to keep Beterbiev off of him. It worked for a while, and Gvozdyk landed the occasional counter. The issue? Gvozdyk did not land enough to the body to slow down Beterbiev, while the latter consistently landed thudding right hands to the body that limited his counterpart’s movement. After the ninth round, trainer Teddy Atlas was seen trying to motivate his fighter, who was displaying terrible body language. After the fight, analyst Max Kellerman said -- and was rightfully criticized for saying -- that Gvozdyk essentially quit in his corner after the ninth round.
Why was this crazy? Because going into Round 10, Gvozdyk led on two scorecards (87-84 and 86-85) and trailed 87-83 on the third. Still, Gvozdyk went down three times in the third round -- none of them seemed like pure knockdowns but were more of a case of just dropping due to an accumulation of punches -- and Beterbiev captured second 175-pound title.
What comes next for Gvozdyk? It is rather baffling to watch him struggle against Beterbiev and not wonder why he would not train with Anatoly Lomachenko, who is setting the boxing world on fire while working with his son and Oleksandr Usyk. We know they worked together in the Olympics, and both Usyk and Vasiliy Lomachenko were at the fight. At one point, Usyk was both sized up and tickled by Tyson Fury. If Gozdyk is smart, he will leave Atlas and return to Lomachenko’s father.
As for Beterbiev, he wants to fight Dmitry Bivol in an all-Russian matchup that would give the winner every 175-pound belt except for Sergey Kovalev’s WBO championship. All parties seem ready to make it happen, but promoter Bob Arum is first going to have Beterbiev face his IBF mandatory challenger, China’s Meng Fanlong, on the Chinese Island of Hainan. Arum is a Harvard University law graduate, but this may be the dumbest idea to come along in quite a while.
Beterbiev is an extremely devout Muslim, and one of the atrocities the Chinese government is accused of committing is keeping millions of Muslims in what essentially amount to concentration camps. If China could not handle an NBA executive’s criticism regarding the situation in Hong Kong, the nation would have a full-fledged international crisis on its hands if Beterbiev were to say something about how it treats Muslims. Chinese money is not worth the risk.
Abdukakhorov Beats Collazo After Accidental Headbutt
Luis Collazo was cut by an accidental headbutt against Keith Thurman, which forced their fight to go to the scorecards and resulted in Collazo losing a decision. He suffered the same fate on Friday against Kudratillo Abdukakhorov, as an accidental headbutt opened a gash on Collazo’s right eyelid and sent the fight to go to the scorecards in the 10th round. Collazo lost the fight by unanimous decision: 99-91, 97-93 and 98-93.
Abdukakhorov won the fight comfortably but did not look great doing so. While the entire purpose of taking a fight with Collazo was to bolster his reputation in the United States, Abdukakhorov admitted he did not train hard enough for the fight and conceded that he will need improve his efforts ahead of his title shot. Abdukakhorov is the mandatory opponent for Errol Spence’s IBF welterweight championship. It sounds like a fight that will never happen -- the IBF would make an exemption knowing how little money Spence-Abdukakhorov would generate versus, say, Spence-Manny Pacquiao -- but if Spence is looking to take it slowly after his car accident, Abdukakhorov could make sense. As for Collazo, retirement beckons, and he should heed the call.
Fitzgerald Beats Cheeseman, Nets Questionable Decision
After Ted Cheeseman lost a unanimous decision -- 116-113, 116-113 and 115-113 -- to Scott Fitzgerald, he stormed out of the ring and vented on social media: “This is the corrupt sport we’re in. Train like a lunatic and dedicate your life, make loads of sacrifices to have politics of business take away from me what I deserve, everyone knows who the real winner of that fight was tonight, boxed class, everyone doubted me before, proved you all wrong and then get scammed.”
Many though the fight was close and Cheeseman was not alone in thinking he had been cheated out of a decision he deserved. Dazn commentators were convinced that while Fitzgerald rallied late, Cheeseman’s surprising strategy to box won him enough early rounds to warrant the decision. Most of twitter concurred, but the judges did not.
What this means for the futures of the two participants is interesting. Before the fight, the idea was that the winner would face Anthony Fowler and the loser would get Kieron Conway. Fitzgerald has already beaten Fowler, so it will be interesting to see if we get Fitzgerald-Fowler 2 or Fitzgerald-Cheeseman 2 next.
Vargas Struggles in Mexican Homecoming
While Francisco Vargas is 34 years old and has been in many wars, he was afforded the opportunity to fight in his native Mexico for the first time in five years and was expected to look good against Ezequiel Aviles. Instead, Vargas won an ugly split decision -- 96-97, 98-94, 98-94 -- after the fight was stopped in the ninth round, where he was cut by an accidental headbutt.
The fight streamed to Facebook, which may end up being advantageous for Vargas. Why? Because most of the people who watched the fight came away with the impression that Vargas has lost a step or two. ESPN’s Steve Kim called him “shopworn” and noted that “the needle is very close to E with him.” Meanwhile, Graham Houston noted he had quite a struggle and “gets cut very easily these days.” Maybe it was just a bad night for Vargas, but it seems more likely that years in the ring and all his hellacious fights have finally caught up with him.
Colon KOs Zamora, Flores Upsets Ruiz
Two highly regarded fighters on Friday saw their respective careers go in opposite directions. In his American television debut, 140-pound fighter Emanuel “Pinky” Colon stopped Mexico’s Richard Zamora in the first round to move to 17-1 with 16 knockouts. On the other end of the spectrum, rising 147-pound standout Angel Ruiz was shocked by Javier Flores in the second round, where he was walked down and knocked out. The loss dropped Ruiz to 16-1, while Flores moved to 15-2.