AC­TION

Gvozdyk’s corona­tion night ends in deeply wor­ry­ing cir­cum­stances, writes Paul Sal­gado

Boxing News - - Contents -

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.

Photo: AMANDA WESTCOTT/SHOW­TIME

NEW CHAM­PION: Gvozdyk wins but con­cerns will soon cen­tre on Steven­son

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