Gvozdyk’s coronation night ends in deeply worrying circumstances, writes Paul Salgado
Thoughts are with Adonis Stevenson after grim world title defeat
A STUNNING victory that saw Ukrainian
Oleksandr Gvozdyk claim the WBC light-heavyweight title soon spiraled into tragedy after defending champion,
Adonis Stevenson, collapsed moments after suffering an 11th-round KO defeat.
Making his 10th defence of a belt he had held for nearly five-and-a-half years, Stevenson stalked a mobile Gvozdyk for most of the closely contested match, and was ahead on two of the judges’ cards and level on the third prior to the knockout.
Stevenson was stunned by a volley of straight punches from Gvozdyk that weakened his legs and sent him retreating to the ropes. Gvozdyk followed up with another salvo, staggering Stevenson once more, before a final right hand snapped the head of the defenseless champion and sent him collapsing to the canvas where he remained for several uneasy minutes.
Minutes later a more lucid Stevenson was able to sit on a stool, but required assistance to leave the ring and return to the dressing room. Witness accounts claim that Stevenson experienced difficulty standing after he had showered and was rushed to l’enfant Jésus de Québec hospital from the Centre Videotron arena, where he appeared in a disoriented and confused state according to the fighter’s promoter, Yvon Michel.
The fighter was put into a medically induced coma at the hospital, and was reported to be in a stable condition as we went to press.
It’s normal to review events in an effort to ascertain if anything could have been done differently to avoid this tragedy.
Despite a light 15-0 (12) record going in, Gvodzyk, 31, who won a bronze medal for Ukraine at the 2012 Olympics, was slightly favoured to dethrone Stevenson, who stood three inches shorter than his 6ft 2in challenger. But the 41-year-old Stevenson, of Montreal, was in superb shape and competitive from the outset, keeping Gvozdyk moving laterally and respectfully boxing from the perimeter.
Now a resident of Oxnard, California, Gvodzyk, who enlisted the services of veteran trainer Teddy Atlas for this fight, was clearly wary of the champion’s power and planned to take him into the later rounds where Stevenson was known to fade.
A sharp right from Gvodzyk at the opening of the third deposited Stevenson on the canvas, although referee Michael Griffin, who was not having his best night, ruled it a slip. Stevenson would continue to apply pressure and occasionally land his vaunted left, stunning Gvozdyk with the punch in the 10th and causing him to fall into the ropes for what should have technically been ruled a knockdown. Instead, Griffin allowed the fighter to bounce of the strands and continue fighting, in what would prove another erroneous call.
Gvodzyk started to open up after round six, and his sharp-shooting combinations seemed to take effect in the later rounds, as planned.
Southpaw Stevenson controlled the distance with a heavy jab, and consistently managed to land his thudding cross, but going into the fateful 11th he seemed visibly tired and took repeated punches from Gvodzyk, while offering up a diminished offence. At the midway point of the round, Gvodzyk landed a hard right that drove Stevenson to the ropes. Stevenson responded with a few jabs and fell short with a power shot, then fielded another hard right moments later that began the onslaught from the challenger that would culminate with the knockout at the 2-49 mark.
For his part, referee Griffin, a seasoned official, could not be faulted. He was close to the action as Gvozdyk unloaded his final combination, and jumped between the fighters at what seemed the right moment. His only misfortune was being positioned behind the challenger when the final punch was delivered, and he was manoeuvring between the fighters to rescue Stevenson.
Stevenson, whose remarkable run as champion began in June 2013 with a stunning knockout of Chad Dawson, ends a 12-year-plus career with a stellar 29-2-1 (24) record.
Far more important at this moment, however, are our collective prayers for his full and complete recovery.
THE VERDICT The boxing world sends its best wishes to Stevenson.
NEW CHAMPION: Gvozdyk wins but concerns will soon centre on Stevenson