Oleksandr Gvozdyk Ends Light Heavyweight Championship Hostage Crisis

We have a new, true light heavyweight champion.

Saturday on Showtime, Oleksandr Gvozdyk stopped Adonis Stevenson in the 11th round with an intelligent, powerful attack that forced the referee to save the fallen divisional king.

Gvozdyk boxed beautifully until that point — moving, countering, blocking and never getting sloppy to expose himself of boxing’s power-punching luminaries. And yet, it was a close one, with TQBR scoring it even after the 10th. But if you looked closely, you could see the edges fraying from Stevenson in that 10th round, one he won: At the end of the frame, Gvozdyk landed a flush combination, the kind few boxers stand up to — let alone a 41-year-old — and especially against someone who had 12 KOs in 15 wins.

You might’ve thought it was Stevenson on the verge of a KO, scoring his first knockdown-worthy blow to push Gvozdyk to the ropes that might have saved him from hitting the canvass. (Gvozdyk got robbed of a knockdown call in the 3rd when the ref ruled it a slip, so fair’s fair.) Nope! Gvozdyk transformed from patient sharpshooter to aggressive precision offensive machine in the 11th and another even bigger combo trapped Stevenson.

A final right hand sent Stevenson slumping, and the ref correctly waved it off, hometown soil be damned.

To say Stevenson’s light heavyweight reign has been a sham top-to-bottom would be too much. He’s faced excellent light heavyweights, Gvozdyk obviously among them, and Badou Jack recently, too. The problem is, he’s never once faced the boxers he should’ve, be it ducking Sergey Kovalev for a millennium or two, or refusing to settle the score with Jack, who held him to a draw.

He’s just held the damn thing hostage for too long, and while he was plenty exciting and had some good battles, Stevenson’s light heavyweight championship run has been more of a pox than not.

Now, the championship is free from his clutches, thanks to Gvozdyk beating it out of them. Sport being what it is, it’s hard to tell whether this will free anything up much; Gvozdyk is with Top Rank, and some of the other top light heavyweights are with the smoldering remains of the HBO empire. All we know right now is that it ain’t in the hands of the guy who sat on it for years.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.