Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Gvozdyk-Beterbiev Fight Week Notes

The first impression that one receives from the Artur Beterbiev camp is that no expense was spared during training for his light heavyweight unification match against Oleksandr Gvozdyk. (The fight will be held on Friday at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia; ESPN will televise.) Beterbiev trained in Russia for 21 days at high altitude before coming back to Montreal for an eight-week camp. Head trainer Marc Ramsay said at a meet-and-greet on Tuesday night that they had used seven sparring partners in preparation for Gvozdyk. Iceman John Scully has been working with Ramsay as an assistant trainer to bring an additional perspective into camp. Top-shelf cutman Russ Anber (who has trained fighters as well) is also a member of Team Beterbiev. 

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"I never think about a knockout. I'm prepared to go 12 rounds every fight. If the knockout comes, it comes." Despite Beterbiev's 100% knockout ratio in his 14 professional fights, Beterbiev and Ramsay are quick to point out that the fighter possesses far more in the ring than just a big punch. Although Scully indicated in a Ring Magazine interview earlier this week that they plan to be aggressive, Ramsay was far more circumspect at the event on Tuesday night and at the media roundtable on Wednesday. 


Artur Beterbiev
Photo by Adam Abramowitz


Even though Ramsay stated that Beterbiev has the best power that he has ever seen at light heavyweight, he believes that the fighter can offer a lot more in the ring than he has shown thus far in his career. Ramsay noted Artur's considerable amateur success and indicated that Beterbiev was comfortable slugging it out or boxing. 

***

"I don't have a problem. They have a problem." Early in Beterbiev's professional career Ramsay wanted to test the fighter against Jean Pascal and Eleider Alvarez (both have won a title at light heavyweight). Ramsay told Artur that he would be in tough, yet as Artur said above, he wasn't too concerned. What's clear is that even from his nascent days as a professional Artur has not lacked confidence. 

*** 

"When I was an amateur, I was boxing for my dream. Now it's my job." Beterbiev made no secret that when he's not working at his job he disconnects from the sport. He didn't see last week's fight that featured fellow light heavyweight titleholder Dmitry Bivol and he doesn't plan to watch the big Canelo Alvarez-Sergey Kovalev matchup next month. Boxing is what he does and what he's good at, but when away from the sport he prefers to spend time with his wife and four children. As a corollary, he doesn't think about future opponents or potentially winning belts in other weight classes. Once a fight is about to be made he then focuses on that opponent, but he's not swept up by long-range plans or goals.  

***

"This is the first time we have had momentum in a long time and Artur is right where he needs to be." In a 22-month span between December 2016 and October 2018, Beterbiev fought only once. Embroiled in promotional issues and a corresponding lawsuit, Beterbiev spent a lot of that prime period of his career on the shelf. After fighting in May of this year and now returning to the ring in October, Beterbiev, according to Ramsay, is back on track. Artur admitted how difficult that period was for him, but is now happy that he only needs to focus on boxing. 

***

Beterbiev and Gvozdyk share some common thoughts in the lead up to the fight. Both dismissed their amateur bout that happened 10 years ago in which Beterbiev won, understanding that each has changed and grown as boxers in the interim. In addition, despite the tense political climate between Russia and Ukraine (Beterbiev is from Russia, Gvozdyk from Ukraine), both fighters declined to inject politics into this matchup. They are here to prove themselves in the light heavyweight division and that is the only statement they would like to make.

***

"Teddy is a good person. And in boxing there aren't many good people out there...With Teddy, there's no room for argument. He's very smart and pays attention to even the smallest detail. Everyone knows the basics, but Teddy has that attention to detail that I like. He's a smart dictator." When the initial paring of Gvozdyk and trainer Teddy Atlas was announced last year, that was viewed within the industry as an unconventional pick. Atlas had mostly stopped training fighters and focused primarily on his ESPN duties. 


Oleksandr Gvozdyk
Photo by Adam Abramowitz


But it's clear that after a few fights (including a title-winning effort against Adonis Stevenson) they have enjoyed working together. Gvozdyk, a cerebral fighter, has responded to Atlas's intensive focus on technical improvements and ring craft. With Gvozdyk, Atlas believes that he has a willing disciple, a fighter willing to put in the work, to make needed sacrifices. Atlas in addition respects how Gvozdyk can think clearly under pressure, a trait that he believes few fighters possess. 

***

"The best punch sometimes is the one you don't throw." Atlas spoke about some of the areas of improvement for Gvozdyk. He shared an anecdote from a training session they had when they started working together. Gvozdyk threw a punch and came forward. Atlas immediately questioned his fighter and asked him why he came forward. Gvozdyk didn't have an answer. To Atlas, everything – punches, movements, decisions – must be purposeful. One of the areas where he has worked with Gvozdyk has been on decision making. To Atlas there was an additional level of discipline that needed to be added to Gvozdyk's fighting style. As Atlas said on Wednesday, "There has to be a reason to do something in the ring. You have to know why."

***

"One of my challenges was to find his definitive ring identity." Atlas saw lots to like with Gvozdyk, but in his belief the fighter could be caught between styles. Gvozdyk always had excellent footwork, athleticism, coordination and offensive creativity, but Atlas didn't think that he used his height and reach enough. These were aspects that they worked on for the Stevenson fight and continue to perfect. 

***

"When fighting a puncher, there's a reminder that there's no room for mistakes. There needs to be 36 minutes of concentration. Oleksandr can't fight 2:59 of a round; he needs to fight three minutes a round, and one round at a time. There can't be any switching off. There is no margin for error." 


Teddy Atlas
Photo by Adam Abramowitz

Atlas and Gvozdyk prepared for one of the biggest punchers in the division in Stevenson and now face perhaps the premier light heavyweight knockout artist. They know the risks inherent with taking on such dangerous opponents, but they also understand that certain opportunities are created when facing punchers, whether it's the tendency for punchers to wait, or sometimes their habit of falling out of position when missing shots. Despite Beterbiev's firepower, Atlas realizes that Gvozdyk must assert himself offensively and needs to find moments to get the better of his opponent. And even though Stevenson and Beterbiev are both massive punchers, Atlas believes that Friday's fight will look much different in the ring than the Stevenson bout. 

Adam Abramowitz is the founder and head writer of saturdaynightboxing.comHe's a member of Ring Magazine's Ring Ratings Panel and a Board Member for the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board. 
Email: saturdaynightboxing@hotmail.com.
snboxing on twitter. SN Boxing on Facebook.

4 comments:

  1. Adam you said on your podcast that not many people are flying in to the fight. Do you think in addition to market saturation, that's because it's harder for people to fly in for a friday fight than saturday? As a fan Im happy for it to happen on any day, but don't you think they would have sold more on a saturday? For a friday night fight with no undercard, they're killing it if they clear 4,000 tickets. I remember when Jacobs and Quillin fought in Barclays, on a saturday night, with a much better undercard if memory serves, and with the two of them getting more exposure on the come up than either Gvozdyk or Beterbiev, they only cleared about 5k. That just seems to be the normal number for any boxing match in the US featuring guys who have not gotten AAA-side promotion and opportunity their entire careers, except for maybe GGG but he also benefited from Canelo, just later on.

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    1. I think the Friday night is a factor. I also think that it's a very busy fight calendar right now. There are several big fights between now and the end of the year

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  2. Adam also what do you make of Bivol's manager saying they offered Zurdo the fight last saturday vs Bivol but didn't hear back. I also didn't know what to make when Duva said the next year or TWO. Eddie Hearn said right after Bivol's fight, "it's time" for a big fight for him, that's what he needs. His manager always says they're trying to get him top opponents, but they've been rejected so far. Duva made it sound like, as you said, they're the ones trying to protect Bivol.

    Which is it? Contradictory messages coming from the differences branches of Team Bivol.

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  3. It seems to me that Bivol was being pushed two years ago a lot faster than he is now. If Kovalev has beaten E. Alvarez in their first fight, Bivol would have fought him next. That fight was agreed to. So it is strange to hear Duva say that they are in no rush regarding Bivol. For one reason or another, he isn't getting the big push like he once did.

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