Within three rounds, you knew it was the same old Artur Beterbiev. The unified light heavyweight champ was cutting the 18-foot ring in half by applying constant pressure with his feet, and he was bashing away at Callum Smith effortlessly. It was all over early in round seven.
Yours truly had picked Smith for the upset. Why? Because Beterbiev is almost 39 years old, he looked less than stellar last time out against Anthony Yarde in a TKO 8 win, and he’d undergone a serious jaw operation in the summer. Boxing is all about timing, inside and outside the ring, and I felt Smith’s pedigree and hitting power could cause the veteran champ a nightmare at this stage.
I was miles away. I don’t believe in adding caveats to fight predictions: “Oh, I’ll pick Fighter A, but if Fighter B is on great form and wears these gloves, then Fighter B might win!” With nonsense like that, you’re never wrong. I elect to die on the sword when it comes to a fight prediction and that’s what I’ll always do.
When I get an underdog pick right, I’ll shout it from the rooftops, so when I get one wrong, I’ll take what’s coming to me. Twitter (X) wasn’t very sympathetic and I didn’t expect anything less.
Anyway, what now for Beterbiev? For me, the Russian destroyer turned in his best performance since he decimated the excellent Oleksandr Gvozdyk in their October 2019 unification clash.
How do we assess him based on his most recent victory?
Is Artur Beterbiev on the pound-for-pound list?
Beterbiev (20-0, 20 KOs) was not rated on The Sporting News pound-for-pound list coming into this fight. While the Global Combat Team is still in the process of debating his inclusion, I’d be willing to bet that he will enter the list within the next 24 hours.
In terms of optics, Beterbiev is a brilliant pressure fighter with excellent ring IQ, solid fundamentals, and bone-breaking punching power. He’s been inactive in recent years and that’s gone against him, but any concerns about him being over the hill have been shut down. He looked excellent last night against a world-class opponent and closed out in style.
Other signature victories have come against Tavoris Cloud (TKO 2), Gvozdyk (TKO 10), Marcus Browne (TKO 2) and Joe Smith Jr. (TKO 2). At this point, Beterbiev holds three of four sanctioning organisation titles at light heavyweight. The WBA title currently belongs to his countryman Dmitry Bivol.
It’s time to get Beterbiev back on the list… case closed.
Will Artur Beterbiev beat Dmitry Bivol?
This is a wonderful clash of styles between a disciplined and cerebral pressure fighter in Beterbiev and a brilliant technical boxer in Bivol.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the winner of this battle of unbeaten light heavyweights joins the pantheon of all-time greats at 175 pounds. We’re talking about Ezzard Charles, Archie Moore, Bob Foster, and Michael Spinks.
The winner of Beterbiev vs. Bivol would also be the first undisputed light heavyweight champion since Roy Jones Jr. over 20 years ago. It simply doesn’t get any bigger.
Originally, I was rolling with Bivol. I felt he’d be able to box off Beterbiev and pull out a decision win. He’s younger (33), fresher, and looks to be in his fighting prime. However, following Beterbiev’s performance against Smith, I need to switch sides now.
Styles make fights and while Bivol is a well-conditioned and super-skilled boxer, he’s not known for his concussive hitting power. With Beterbiev still in rampaging form, I think you must carry the requisite firepower to hurt him.
It’s been almost six years since Bivol scored a stoppage triumph (Sullivan Barrera TKO 12 in March 2018). He’s had nine unanimous decision victories since that time and only scored a handful of knockdowns.
You can foresee a scenario where Bivol gets off to a brisk start and his volume punching could keep Beterbiev honest early. However, 12 rounds is a long time, and it’s unlikely that Bivol can avoid damage for 36 minutes.
The ability to close distance and throw pulverising shots at the right time are hallmarks of Beterbiev fights. If you’re not giving him a reason to slow the forward march, then you’re in big trouble. He’s sure to be tested like never before, but it’ll take a brave man to go Beterbiev right now.
Regardless of which way you’re leaning, let’s hope we see it next.