When you are a boxing fan, it’s important to take note when you are in the midst of a historical moment for the sport. So pay attention to what is going on right now in the light heavyweight division. The 175-pound class has not been this deep with talent since the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev was the most important fight in boxing last year and the two occupy a spots No. 1 and 2 in most pound-for-pound rankings. But the division’s top 10 is stacked with high quality talent.
One of the best of the pack will get a solid test this weekend in Maryland, when undefeated Oleksandr Gvozdyk faces twice-beaten Yunieski Gonzalez. Gvozdyk is one of three Ukrainian Olympic medalists on the card, joining super featherweight sensation Vasyl Lomachenko and cruiserweight title holder Oleksandr Usyk.
Gvozdyk took a bronze in 2012 and turned professional in 2014. He has been nothing short of spectacular as a professional, knocking out 10 of 12 opponents. Last year he went 4-0 with four KOs. Three of them came against solid contenders.
In April he knocked out former title challenger Nadjib Mohammedi with a picture-perfect right hand. It was one of the year’s best two or three knockouts. He knocked out former title challenger Tommy Karpency in July.
But the fight that really put him on the map was his November stoppage of the rugged and crafty Isaac Chilemba, who quit with a busted hand following Round 7. Chilemba is not the kind of fighter who would have been likely to quit if he hadn’t been losing a one-sided fight.
The win came on the Kovalev-Ward undercard and very nearly stole the show. Chilemba had four losses, but had only really lost decisively to Kovalev. He had never been stopped and has at various times appeared in the division’s top 10.
Gonzalez is not exactly a step up in competition, but he’s certainly not easy pickings, either. The Cuban was robbed against former champion Jean Pascal in July 2015. He lost a majority decision to Gvozdyk’s countryman, Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in December of the same year. He is a strong, skilled fighter and has a tremendous amount to gain in this super competitive division, if he can hand Gvozdyk his first loss. This should make for a very interesting fight.