Oleksandr Gvozdyk is excited and eager to continue the next stage of his career. 

Gvozdyk will face Ricards Bolotniks Saturday night at Estadio Akron in Zapopan, Mexico. The 10-round light heavyweight bout will be part of the Canelo Alvarez-John Ryder undercard that will stream live on DAZN PPV (7 p.m. ET/ 4 p.m. PT). 

At Friday’s weigh-in, Gvozdyk and Bolotniks weighed in at 174.8 pounds.

The 36-year-old (18-1, 14 knockouts), who is originally from Kharkiv, Ukraine and now resides in Camarillo, California, returned to the ring on February 11, defeating journeyman and late-sub Josue Obando by decision over six one-sided rounds. The win over Obando was Gvozdyk’s first fight since losing to Artur Beterbiev in a world title unification fight in October 2019. Gvozdyk would lose the WBC title to Beterbiev.

At the time of the stoppage, Gvozdyk was up on two of the judges’ scorecards.

Gvozdyk will face a fighter in Bolotniks (19-6-1, 8 KOs) who has won eight of his last nine bouts. Bolotniks, who resides in Riga, Latvia, lost by knockout to Joshua Buatsi in his only recent blemish in August 2021. 

Despite being the favorite, Gvozdyk realizes Bolotniks has been the busier fighter, having fought five times in the span since Gvozdyk’s defeat to Beterbiev. Gvozdyk understands he cannot overlook his opponent on fight night.

“He’s a quality fighter,” Gvozdyk told BoxingScene over the phone earlier this week. “He’s usually in shape and he’s a good fighter. I know he will try to pressure me. The key is to win, but do so impressively. I’m ready for whatever he decides to bring and ready to have a good fight on Saturday.”

The win over Obando in his previous fight allowed Gvozdyk to shake off ring-rust. He had long wanted to return to the ring. 

“It was exciting for me,” said Gvozdyk, who is trained by Marcos Contreras. “This fight was to get me back on track. It was exactly what I needed. It was good work for me.”

After the loss to Beterbiev, Gvozdyk took time away from the sport, but never retired. Months later, Gvozdyk was called by representatives of Canelo Alvarez, which included Eddy Reynoso, on sparring the current undisputed super middleweight champion.

Gvozdyk continues serving that role, including Alvarez’s bout on May 7 against Dmitry Bivol and the rubber match against Gennadiy Golovkin on September 17.

It was during sparring sessions with Alvarez that Gvozdyk was convinced he could still remain a force in the light heavyweight division. He believes he is still a force to be reckoned with and will take things one fight at a time, even if he currently is a promotional free agent.

“After the loss, I asked for a release from my contract with Top Rank,” said Gvozdyk. “It was my idea. I wanted to move in a different direction.

“I realized I was still capable of doing things at the top level. Canelo had called me. He invited me to his camp. After a couple of weeks of sparring, I thought I still had it. Two months in, I was now in better shape and I was feeling great.

“I had other opportunities. You never say never. I was still in the gym even when people thought I was retired. I never officially retired.”

Gvozdyk could be on the road back to the top of the 175-pound division. An impressive win over Bolotniks could go a long way in measuring where Gvozdyk is in terms of whether he is again a legit contender.

After the Bolotniks fight, another win or two would legitimately put Gvozdyk in against the best in the division. It is a wait and see for Gvozdyk, who will give his best Saturday night and in fights later this year and in 2024.

“I’m really excited. Fighting on a big Canelo card is a great opportunity for me. I’m still capable of accomplishing so much. We will see. I want to look good and win. Then, we can talk to everyone afterwards and see what’s next.”

Francisco A. Salazar has written for BoxingScene since September 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at santio89@yahoo.com or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing