Why Artur Beterbiev could achieve much more than just undisputed champion status in 2023
When it comes to experienced boxers who have an equal level of danger and knockout threat, there are very few on the planet as versatile and dynamic as Artur Beterbiev. Conversely, it would be hard to find a champion with the same success that goes so far off the radar in terms of crossover appeal.
That reality is expected to change for Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs), the unified light heavyweight champion, if he ends 2023 by overcoming the challenges that may lie ahead of him, namely undefeated WBA champion Dmitry Bivol. in an attempt to become not only the undisputed champion at 175 pounds, but also the recognition of, quite possibly, the best boxer in the world, regardless of weight category.
Beterbiev, who returns to London’s Wembley Arena on Saturday to defend his trio of titles against mandatory challenger Anthony Yarde (23-2, 22 KOs), is the only world boxing champion with a 100 percent knockout rate. The Russian native, who fights at his adopted home in Montreal, has also left a trail of terror in his biggest title fights, finishing fighters like Joe Smith Jr., Marcus Browne, Alexander Gvozdik and Callum Johnson with relative ease.
Those who understand boxing at the hardcore level know about Beterbiev and his superiority. But how is it that someone so destructive, even with the slight respect for P4P he received, couldn’t make a bigger mark on the public mind? And how is it possible that he is already 38 years old?
Beterbiev was a titled amateur who won extensively internationally but also failed to break through at his best moments, losing to reigning unified heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk at the 2011 World Championships and the 2012 Olympics as a light heavyweight. In fact, Beterbiev didn’t turn pro until 2013 when he was 28 years old.
After that, Beterbiev overcame several hurdles, including a promotional dispute with Yvon Michel that saw him fight only once in the two years ending in 2018. It has also gone through a 17-month hiatus in recent years due to the coronavirus pandemic. . And although Beterbiev has worked hard to learn English and this is how he conducts his interviews, the results were very … vanilla.
Asked how training is going this week, Beterbiev said: “I feel good, not bad” and “my team and I always try to be ready for anything, for any strategy.” When pressed for comment on a future fight with Bivol, he said, “It’s Saturday night. I can only think about Saturday night.”
Even when Beterbiev was asked how little he often spoke, the results were predictable: “You know, I don’t want to talk too much.”
Luckily for Beterbiev, those in boxing who know how special his professional path has been have no problem standing up for him.
Former light heavyweight contender “Iceman” John Scully, who assists head coach Mark Ramsey in Beterbiev’s corner, told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday that his fighter pairs well with any 175-pound fighter in the history of the sport.
“Arthur is in there with any of these guys,” Scully said. “In terms of size, certainly punching power and technique, I would say he is in the top echelon for boxing skills and such. I think he fights right there with any of these guys. .”
After a one-off fight under the banners of Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Sport following his split from Michel, Beterbiev signed with Hall of Famer promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank, and the 91-year-old couldn’t help but laugh when asked. about his fighter’s abilities during Thursday’s final press conference.
“Today there are fighters who are known for their strength, but I think that the most powerful puncher in modern boxing is [Beterbiev], who knocked out all the opponents that were put in front of him,” said Arum. “It’s not because he’s a bad boxer, he’s a good boxer. But he also has magic that cannot be taught to a fighter. It’s the instinctive ability to hit and knock out an opponent.”
Although Beterbiev is considered a 9-1 favorite to defeat the strong but limited Yard, a 31-year-old slugger from England who was stopped by Sergei Kovalev in his only previous title shot, the real test for Beterbiev’s career is Bivol’s expected to enter end of this year.
Already on the 2023 best fights shortlist, a Beterbiev-Bivol clash will proclaim the first four-belt division champion as the undisputed king, but it’s not expected to be easy.
Bivol may not be as strong as Beterbiev, but the 32-year-old Russian (born in Kyrgyzstan) is a boxing genius and master of distance control. He also just finished a 2022 Fighter of the Year campaign in which he knocked undisputed super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez off his P4P throne before dominating 44-0 contender Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez, showing more along the way. attacking persistence than the fans. accustomed.
Boxing is expected to host four fights in 2023 that could go a long way in further defining the true king of the sport of P4P, including Beterbiev-Bivol, Errol Spence Jr.-Terence Crawford, Tyson Fury-Usik and Naoya Inoue. Stephen Fulton Jr. And if Beterbiev surpasses Yard and extends his one-punch knockout streak against Bivol, it will be hard to keep Beterbiev from such consideration.
He can be a man of few words outside the ring, and his window to maximize his greatness may shrink as he approaches 40. But Beterbiev speaks best as soon as the bell rings, and the next 12 months could make a big difference. in The Beast, permanently fixing his name in the history books.