Alexander Stetcurenko has replaced Murthel Groenhart in the GLORY 19 Welterweight Contender Tournament.
He will face Nieky ‘The Natural' Holzken in the semi-final stage of the competition, GLORY announced via its official website today.
Groenhart's withdrawal is said to be for medical reasons. This presumably relates to the knockout loss he suffered in China at the start of this month and the fact that US athletic commissions generally won't sanction fighters to compete if they have been knocked out inside a certain preceding time frame.
The fight was to have been Groenhart's return to welterweight after a protracted run at lightweight (70kgs/155lbs). Instead he will now take some time off while the tournament opportunity passes to Stetcurenko.
With the opponent being Holzken one could be forgiven for suggesting that Stetcurenko is being handed a poisoned chalice, but the #1-ranked Holzken has had considerable inactivity in 2014 and Stecurenko has plenty of tournament-winning form himself, including several wins in Russia's notoriously tough TATNEFT Cup competitions.
Artem Levin has fought a trilogy with Stetcurenko and is 2-1 against him. Nonetheless he says he is one of the toughest opponents he has faced and has described dealing with his tricky style as "physically and mentally exhausting".
Holzken took the first half of 2014 off to recover from a shoulder injury sustained in a car accident. Since then he has had two (entry-level) professional boxing matches and a tune-up kickboxing fight on Christmas Day in Turkey.
In the opposite bracket of the tournament is Raymond ‘Real Deal' Daniels, unofficial ‘Knockout of the Millennium' award-holder for his Hollywood finish of Francois Ambang at GLORY 16.
He faces Jonathan Oliveira, a Brazilian prospect who is 2-0 in GLORY and who hails from Curitiba, the same city which gave us such lunatic strikers as Wanderlei Silva, Jose Landi-Jons, Mauricio ‘Shogun' Rua and the rest of the Chute Boxe team.
The two victorious semi-finalists will then face off in the tournament final that same night to determine an overall winner who will go forward to challenge Canadian welterweight champion ‘Bazooka' Joe Valtellini. Sources say that fight is pegged for GLORY 21, penciled in for April somewhere in the US or Canada.
GLORY 19, which takes place Friday, February 6 and airs live in the US on Spike TV, is headlined by Rico Verhoeven defending the heavyweight championship against Errol Zimmerman. To say that these two don't like each other would be putting it mildly. They are 1-1 against each other and personally I feel like winning the rubber match is almost as important to them as the heavyweight title belt.
GLORY 19 takes place at the Hampton Coliseum in Virginia, USA and tickets are on sale via Ticketmaster.com