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Gvozdyk out to tame 'The Mexican Monster', David Benavidez


Oleksandr Gvozdyk is so unassuming that it’s easy to forget he’s a terrific prize fighter. The Ukrainian star returns to elite level on June 15 when he takes on “The Mexican Monster” David Benavidez at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The 12-round bout serves as chief support to the WBA lightweight title fight between champion Gervonta Davis and challenger Frank Martin. Amazon Prime will air the event live.

If you need a history lesson on Gvozdyk, that’s not a big surprise. The former WBC light heavyweight titleholder was out of action for years, but he made a welcome return to his old division in 2023 and is excited to be back.

A former amateur standout, Gvozdyk claimed World Championship gold and Olympic bronze. In 2018, he won the WBC title by defeating the hard-hitting Adonis Stevenson, who tragically suffered a serious brain injury in the bout and was forced to retire from the sport.

WATCH: Gervonta Davis vs. Frank Martin on Prime Video

Following one defense, Gvozdyk entered a unification battle with then-IBF counterpart Artur Beterbiev in October 2019. The first half of the fight was even, but then the fearsome Russian chopped Gvozdyk down for a 10th-round stoppage.

Over three years of inactivity followed before Gvozdyk shirked the ring rust with three solid victories last year. Now in position for a very big fight, I asked the former champ if there were any advantages in taking time out from the sport.

“I don’t know about advantages, but I don’t feel any drawbacks because I was staying in shape,” said Gvozdyk in a recent interview with The Sporting News. “There was also some inactivity due to Covid over the first couple of years.

“But if you look at the top fighters in my weight class, you didn’t see much activity out of those guys. Beterbiev didn’t fight for a year and a half. Basically, it’s even conditions because I kept training. The pause has not impacted me badly. I’m refreshed and hungry to go again.”

The spark returned when Gvozdyk was enlisted as a sparring partner for Mexican great Canelo Alvarez, who was preparing for his bout with WBA light heavyweight champ Dmitry Bivol in May 2022.

“I’d sparred a little bit but not with top-level guys, then all of a sudden you’re sparring Canelo,” recalled Gvozdyk. “He helped me to make the decision to come back because I started doing pretty good against him. In the beginning it was tough because he was halfway through camp, but I got back into decent shape.”

Gvozdyk (20-1, 16 KOs) wouldn’t be drawn into a conversation about whether Canelo’s reluctance to face Benavidez has resulted in him securing this fight. However, the 37-year-old boxer-puncher clearly respects the former two-time super middleweight champion and is expecting one of the toughest fights of his life.

“[Benavidez is] a star opponent,” said Gvozdyk in earnest. “He’s a very tough guy and a very big challenge. It’s hard to think of things that he hasn’t seen before. I’ll just try to do things more efficiently and effectively.

“He’s human and I don’t believe in monsters. He’s a very strong guy and I believe in that. This is why I’m training hard to be able to compete with him over 12, 15 or 20 rounds.”

MORE: Is Canelo ducking David Benavidez?

With 24 knockouts in 28 straight wins, Benavidez is one of the most feared fighters in world boxing. However, two of his last three opponents have been significantly smaller than him. David Lemieux, who was at the end of his career, won a world title at middleweight, and Demetrius Andrade began his career at super welterweight.

Is Benavidez underestimating the challenge presented by a legitimate 175-pounder?

“I’ll appreciate it if he underestimates me,” said Gvozdyk. “I’m counting on him being the best version of himself and if he underestimates me, then that’s perfect. It’ll make things easier for me. If not, we’re going to have a tough war and a big fight.

“It’s gonna be tough. I know what David is doing; he’s always breaking people down with his relentless pressure. We know that and we’ll be ready for that. I’m expecting a lot of punches, a lot of combinations. It’s going to be hard… fireworks.”

While Benavidez vs. Gvozdyk is a big fight in the light heavyweight division, the boxing world eagerly anticipates the undisputed showdown between Gvozdyk’s old foe Beterbiev and Bivol. The original June 1 date was nixed when Beterbiev reportedly tore his meniscus and some have speculated that the fight might never happen now.

“I think it will happen,” said Gvozdyk immediately. “The only thing I’ll say is if it’s a torn meniscus, then I don’t think they’ll be able to go in October. It’s not enough time. It’ll either be the injury is not that serious, or they won’t fight in October. But I do believe this fight will eventually happen. The Saudi people can give you a proposal which you cannot deny.”

Before looking ahead to a rematch with Beterbiev or a fight against Bivol, Gvozdyk is first seeking to defy the odds and tame “The Mexican Monster.”

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