Malawi’s Isaac Chilemba was trying to bounce back from two losses in a row to remain relevant in the division, while Oleksandr Gvozdyk, a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, was trying to brandish his credentials as a rising contender.
It was Gvozdyk who accomplished his goal, forcing Chilemba to retire on his stool after the eighth round with a right elbow injury Saturday night on the Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward undercard at T-Mobile Arena.
“Left jab, left hook and straight rights to the body really hurt him,” Gvozdyk said. “People don’t think I have a lot of fights, but I had over 250 amateur fights. I just broke him down.”
Gvozdyk (12-0, 10 KOs), trained by Robert Garcia, is close friends with Olympic teammate and junior lightweight world titleholder Vasyl Lomachenko, who was ringside. Gvozdyk appeared on his way to a victory even before Chilemba’s injury. The Ukrainian fighter was steadily breaking down the slower, smaller Chilemba with precise punches and pesky jabs to the face.
Gvozdyk had Chilemba (24-3-2, 10 KOs) in deep trouble in the fourth round, forcing him to the ropes and unloading a sustained flurry that had referee Jay Nady looking closely.
“A new star was born tonight,” said matchmaker Brad “Abdul” Goodman of Top Rank, which promotes Gvozdyk.
Chilemba, 29, a native of Malawi who fights out of South Africa, was working with Roy Jones Jr. as his trainer for the first time, but the pairing did not seem to stoke much fire in Chilemba.
“I am devastated,” Chilemba said. “If I hadn’t hurt my right arm in the third round, it would have been a completely different outcome. I was in an incredible amount of pain from the third round through the rest of the fight.”
Chilemba was coming off a decision loss to Kovalev in a July world title fight.
-Report by Dan RafaelESPN Senior Writer