IN one of 2019’s most anticipated match-ups, it was Artur Beterbiev who unified two light-heavyweight titles with a brilliant 10th round stoppage of Oleksander Gvozdyk at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia.

Artur Beterbiev, the IBF champion, walked to the ring first.

Oleksander Gvozdyk, the WBC titlist, was announced in the ring first.

Beterbiev’s nose was reddened almost instantly. The crowd at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia was behind Gvozdyk.

He had done the better work in round one but as the session closed they tangled, Gvozdyk was bundled to the deck and it was ruled a knockdown.

The WBC champion may have been sent over by the left but it was not a punch, he was bundled to the deck.

His trainer Teddy Atlas admonished the official for the call that saw his man given a count. It was changed moments later, before the second round, after the replay revealed it was not a knockdown.

However, Gvozdyk took some heavy shots in the second. His legs seemed to dip from a right. Beterbiev, a physical brute, was going through the gears while the Ukrainian was throwing lighter punches in a bid to stockpile some points.

He opened up in round three to try and keep Beterbiev’s march at bay but he bled from the nose by round’s end.

Gvozdyk was moving well and throwing smart combinations but he was getting tagged. He was paying a price for his success, for getting into range. He was able to frustrate Beterbiev with a pair of sneaky right hands near the end of the fifth but the IBF champion’s charge was steady, his body work consistent.  

There’s something so menacing about Beterbiev that he looks in control even when he’s been hit. He landed a right to the body in round six that seemed to register with Gvozdyk.

They landed simultaneous rights as the sixth closed.

The sweat sprayed from Beterbiev’s head but it only served to annoy him and he proceeded to tear into Gvozdyk to the bell, again forcing the WBC boss down but again it was deemed a slip.

They both landed big shots to close the eighth, “The Nail” nailing Beterbiev with a jab-cross to see out the session.

It was captivating without being thrilling. Hard without being all out war.

Gvozdyk was hurt to the body early in the ninth and he was having to fire flurries and tie his man up in a bid to keep Beterbiev off him. The menacing Russian crashed through with uppercuts in round nine and Gvozdyk was hanging on grimly as the clackers sounded to indicate 10 seconds remained.

Water was poured over him, cotton buds were shoved up his nostrils and Atlas went about rallying his man.

But Gvozdyk’s tank was running low.

Beterbiev surged belligerently forwards in the 10th and a clutch of right hands caused the WBC champion’s legs to dip and this time he touched down for a count. Two more attacks.

Twice more Gvozdyk – who was ahead 87-84 and 87-85 on two cards – took to his knees and referee Gary Rosado counted him out at 2-49.

“For this moment, it’s my most important fight,” Beterbiev said in the aftermath. “I had big work to prepare for this fight.”

“It doesn’t matter [who I fight next]. Anyone. I’m focused on [unifying] titles, not on names.”