The best way to judge a boxer is not when he is at his best, on cruise control and firing all of his guns. Rather, you will get a more accurate assessment of a person when he is going through difficult times, when things do not go as he planned.
And that’s where IBF-WBC light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev found himself at the start of his fight in Montreal in December against Marcus Brown.
Beterbiev was the favorite, though not because Brown was a bad opponent. Brown was the 2012 U.S. Olympic champion and is a big, accomplished fighter. The odds were stacked in Beterbiev’s favor because he fought in his new hometown of Montreal and mostly because he went into the fight 16-0, landing 16 knockouts and pretty much looking like a one-man wrecking crew.
Beterbiev started slowly and Brown quickly. After three rounds, Brown was leading the scorecards and looked very much like he was capable of causing an upset. The fight changed in the fourth, which was perhaps the lowest point of his career.
About 40 seconds into the fourth, Beterbiev stepped back while Brown moved forward towards the center. Brown had his hands on Beterbiev and his head was on Beterbiev’s chest. While striking, Brown turned his head to the left and an inadvertent clash of heads occurred. A massive cut opened between the eyes on Beterbiev’s forehead.
It was such a deep and wide cut that many doctors stopped the fight on the spot. Beterbiev was given another round.
And at that moment we saw the appearance of the real Artur Beterbiev.
Focus, ferocity and intensity intensified, and Beterbiev looked like a different person after the cut. His pace increased. The power of his shots increased. As well as accuracy. Brown could no longer use his length and hold Beterbiev at the end of his punches. Beterbiev looked like a superstar from the moment the fight resumed after the cut until a battered, beaten tired Brown could no longer continue in the ninth.
“Impressive,” said WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith, who will face Beterbiev for three of four light heavyweight belts on Saturday (10 pm ET/ESPN) at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden in New York. York.
It’s easy when you’re more talented and powerful than almost everyone you come across, and everything goes on as usual all the time. It is at such moments that a fighter is often best seen.
Top Rank president Todd du Boeuf said Beterbiev showed a trait that distinguishes many of the game’s legends.
“When you look at the elite fighters, when they have to turn on the next gear and step on it, it stuns you, you see it and go: “Oh my God! Where did it come from?” he said. “This injury was so bad that the referee told him that he would give him another round. It created a sense of urgency and you saw the fighter pick up the situation, switch gears and do what he had to do. This is the elite.
“He is a stoic, quiet guy, but he has an aura around him. He is a terminator, and this silence is deadly.”
Beterbiev is resented by suggestions that he is a knockout, even though he is the only reigning world champion to have an impeccable record with all his knockout victories. He is one of the hardest working athletes and now, even at 37, he is still keen to add elements to his game.
So for Beterbiev, it wasn’t a matter of anger at the downsizing and going into bestiality. He was got angry and he did go into beast mode, but there was a method to his madness. He didn’t take the field like it was a home run derby and he didn’t swing at the fences every time.
But even when Beterbiev uses his boxing skills to break an opponent, one must not forget how much power he infuses with each punch, even the jab. The punch stats refer to power punches by everyone except the jab, but anyone who has been hit in the nose by Beterbiev’s jab is likely to confirm that it was indeed a power punch, and a significant one at that.
“I’m always trying to get better and improve my skills,” Beterbiev said. “I was better [against Browne] than I was in combat before [against Adam Deines] and I will be better at this than in the past.”
This must be a worrying proposition for Smith, who has never faced a fight he didn’t like. But while Smith has a lot of punch himself, it’s debatable whether he chooses to take on one of the sport’s best punchers, regardless of weight class.
Beterbiev doesn’t give any clues.
“I never talk about strategy before a fight,” he said. – We can talk about it later.
If he can get to the same level against Smith as he did in the fourth round against Brown, it will take Smith an impressive effort to compete against him.