Born in Kharkov, Ukraine but now living in Oxnard, California (where he is guided by Robert Garcia), Oleksandr “The Nail” Gvozdyk is not your normal Ukrainian boxer (except for the fact that he is a very fine boxer).
Gvozdyk represented the Ukraine at the 2009 and 2011 World Championships. He was the Universiade world champion in 2008 and 2013 and Europe Cup winner in 2010. He also fought in two seasons of the World Series of Boxing, going 9-0. He won the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics.
Fighting out of California, he has never met an opponent with a losing record and like many Eastern European fighters with outstanding amateur records, he hit the professional road running.
This 6’2” light heavyweight is 13-0 with 11 KOs and combines exceptional speed and deceptive power. He is patient, relaxed, and fluid and possesses a remarkable jab.
On April 8, he met fearsome looking and muscular Cuban Yunieski Gonzalez at the MGM National Harbor in Maryland. The ripped Gonzalez (18-3) looked like a miniature Evander Holyfield and the tall Nail looked like anything but…but appearances can be deceiving. In boxing, muscularity rarely translates to boxing skills and stamina.
“The Nail” stole the show by using a super-fast jab to keep Gonzalez from coming in and then, when he did get close, countering him with deceptively sharp power shots. “Once I got him hurt, I just kept throwing punches. I wanted to get him out of there,” said Gvozdyk. The ring smart Ukrainian continued the vicious and bloody onslaught until overly tentative referee Harvey Dock finally stopped the slaughter in the third round at the urging of Gonzalez’s “brave” corner.
The fight was supposed to be competitive; it was anything but. “Oh, my God,” said Egis Klimas, Gvozdyk’s manager. “I thought that would be the most competitive fight [Saturday night], and it came out the most easiest [sic] fight.”
South Africa’s Isaac Chilemba went the distance with Sergey Kovalev. Tony Bellew could not stop him in two outings. Fact is, Chilemba had never been stopped. Never, that is, until Gvozdyk did the trick in November of last year in Las Vegas, although an alleged injured hand contributed to the stoppage.
What’s next for Gvozdyk?
The win puts Gvozdyk on the short list for big fights in the very exciting and competitive light heavyweight division and serves notice to the likes of Adonis Stevenson, Artur Beterbiev, Nathan Cleverly, Marcus Bowne (assuming he beats Seanie Monaghan, a likely scenario), Andre Ward, Sergey Kovalev, and the winner of the forthcoming match between Joe Smith and Sullivan Barrera. Of course, when it comes to WBC titleholder Stevenson, caution is the operative word for the Canadian who often has been accused of cherry picking.
The 39-year-old Stevenson recently had the audacity to say, “Everyone I fight they say he is a bum. I don’t want people telling me the same sh*t. I don’t want him telling me that this f***ing guy is a bum. He (Joe Smith) beat Hopkins but he’s a bum. I will go to New York. I got no problem going to New York.”
That didn’t happen. Stevenson bypassed Smith for a rematch with Andrze Fonfara.
Klimas, who manages Kovalev as well, said “Stevenson ran from Kovalev…I hope he doesn’t run from Gvozdyk too. We would like to get that fight.”
That’s not going to happen either.
The division is chock full of other solid fighters and many would like to engage Stevenson, but that feeling doesn’t appear to be mutual.
Smith looms large if he gets past Barrera, but risking a loss at this stage of his fast moving career doesn’t jive with a business model that suggests making the largest amount of money as fast as he can and then leaving with his facilities intact. It’s not an easy model to follow and risk-reward must be factored in. This is where a savvy promoter like Joe DeGuardia comes in.
Artur Beterbiev (11-0) who averages less than three rounds per fight with a KO percentage of 100% has never fought professionally in Russia, nor has the English-speaking Gvozdyk ever fought in the Ukraine. A Russian vs. a Ukrainian — one who lives in Canada and the other who lives in California — would be a promoter’s dream and could be billed as the “Battle of the Ex-patriots.” Moreover, the winner could fight the winner of Kovalev-Ward.
Eleider “Storm” Alvarez (22-0) recently defeated Jean Pascal and holds wins over Chilemba and Lucien Bute. A Columbian who resides in Canada, he is expected to fight Stevenson next, but might be the perfect next opponent for The Nail. “The Storm” is highly competent, but still safe enough for Gvozdyk—much safer than Beterbiev.
Now it’s not easy to steal the show from Vasily Lomachenko, particularly when he is putting on one of his clinics (as he did against outgunned but gutsy Jason Sosa). However, Oleksandr “The Nail” Gvozdyk did exactly that on April 8 when he put on a short but dazzling display of skill and power. Whether he is the next big thing depends on who and how he fights in his next match. If it’s Artur Beterbiev and if he beats him, the answer will be YES.
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Ted Sares is one of the world’s oldest active power lifters and holds several records in the Grand Master class. He has won the EPF Nationals championship four years in a row. A member of Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he enjoys writing about boxing.