Light heavyweight world champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk will make his first title defense against Doudou Ngumbu, Top Rank announced on Wednesday.
The bout will take place on March 30 and headline a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia (10 p.m. ET with preliminary bouts streaming on ESPN+ beginning at 7 p.m. ET).
"It was a long journey for me to become a world champion, and I plan on showing everyone why I am the best light heavyweight in the world," Gvozdyk said. "Ngumbu is a tough fighter who I cannot afford to overlook. My goal in 2019 is to unify with the other champions, but before I can do that, I have to take care of business on March 30."
Gvozdyk (16-0, 13 KOs), 31, of Ukraine, but fighting out of Oxnard, California, was a 2012 Olympian and moved quickly as a professional like his close friends and Olympic teammates Vasiliy Lomachenko, the pound-for-pound king and unified lightweight world champion, and undisputed cruiserweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk.
In his first fight under the guidance of trainer (and ESPN analyst) Teddy Atlas, Gvozdyk, known as "The Nail," won the world title on Dec. 1 in Quebec City, where he knocked out long-reigning champion Adonis Stevenson in the 11th round of his 10th defense. Stevenson, who reigned as champion for 5½ years, suffered a severe brain injury and remains hospitalized.
Ngumbu, a Congo native based in France, who will turn 38 on March 10, is vastly experienced but has yet to get over the hump against a top opponent.
Ngumbu (38-8, 14 KOs) is coming off a majority decision win over then-unbeaten Yoann Kongolo in May to rebound from a decision loss to former world title challenger Igor Mikhalkin, who has defeated him twice. Ngumbu has also lost to former title challengers Isaac Chilemba, Andrzej Fonfara and Nadjib Mohammedi. Now he finds himself with an unexpected shot at the 175-pound world championship.
"It is a great opportunity to face arguably the best light heavyweight fighter in the world," Ngumbu said. "After 12 years and 46 fights in my career with serious opposition, I get my first shot at a major world title. I have the utmost respect for Oleksandr Gvozdyk, a great champion who took the WBC title in a war against Adonis Stevenson. It is not going to be easy, but I believe I am much more experienced as a pro and I intend to use that to my advantage."
In the scheduled 10-round co-feature, welterweight contender "Mean Machine" Egidijus Kavaliauskas will take on southpaw and Philadelphia native Ray Robinson.
Kavaliauskas (21-0, 17 KOs), 30, of Lithuania, is the mandatory challenger for welterweight world titlist and Top Rank stablemate Terence Crawford. If Kavaliauskas defeats Robinson, he could face Crawford later this year as long as Crawford retains his 147-pound belt against Amir Khan on April 20.
Robinson was selected as the opponent because not only might he bring in some fans for the hometown fight, but also to get Kavaliauskas experience against a southpaw, the fighting stance Crawford often switches to during fights.
"I know a lot of Robinson's fans will be in Philadelphia to cheer him on, but they will leave the 2300 Arena disappointed," Kavaliauskas said. "This is the year that I fight for, and win, a welterweight world title. I am ready for anybody, including the Crawford-Khan winner. I will show everyone in Philadelphia and watching on ESPN what the 'Mean Machine' is all about."
Robinson (24-3, 12 KOs), 33, is coming off a seventh-round knockout loss to Yordenis Ugas in a welterweight world title elimination fight in February 2018. Ugas earned a shot at titleholder Shawn Porter, whom he will face next month.
"I am always excited to come home and put on for my city," Robinson said. "Every fight is a risk, but the higher the risk, the bigger the reward."
The key fight on the ESPN+ portion of the card is a welterweight world title eliminator between "The Punisher" Kudratillo Abdukakhorov (15-0, 9 KOs), 25, an Uzbekistan native based in Malaysia, and Keita Obara (20-3-1, 18 KOs), 32, of Japan. Obara got a chance to fight for a junior welterweight world title in 2016 but suffered a second-round knockout to Eduard Troyanovsky in Moscow. The winner of the fight will become the mandatory challenger for the winner of the March 16 fight between world titlist Errol Spence Jr. and Mikey Garcia.
The card will also include an appearance by Philadelphia heavyweight prospect Sonny Conto (1-0, 1 KO), 23, who turned pro with a first-round knockout win on Feb. 8.