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Artur Beterbiev calls out Adonis Stevenson

By Allan Fox: Artur Beterbiev (12-0, 12 KOs) captured the IBF light heavyweight title last Saturday night on November 11 in stopping Enrico Koelling (23-2, 6 KOs) in the 12th round to win the vacant IBF title in Fresno, California. Beterbiev, 32, wants bigger game in going after WBC 175 lb. champion Adonis “Superman” Stevenson (29-1, 24 KOs) for a unification fight.

Beterbiev knocked Koelling down 2 times in the 12th to get a knockout last Saturday night at the Save Mart Arena in Fresno, California. The fight was televised on ESPN, and it brought in excellent ratings. However, the great ratings were likely due to unbeaten Jose Carlos Ramirez fighting Mike Reed on the card. That was the fight that the boxing fans overwhelming showed up to watch at the Save Mart Arena, and not the Beterbiev-Koelling fight. The casual boxing fans were likely not familiar with either of those two fighters.

Beterbiev has already called out the 40-year-old Stevenson, and he’s hoping he can get the fight with him as soon as possible. Stevenson is fighting on January 27 against an opponent still to be determined at the Centre Videotron, in Quebec City, Canada. Former 2 division world champion Badou Jack is likely going to be Beterbiev’s opponent for that fight. Stevenson was supposed to be defending his WBC title against his mandatory challenger Eleider Alvarez, but there’s talk that he’ll step aside so that “Superman” can face Badou Jack instead. Alvarez would then face the winner of that fight for his mandatory title shot.

“I realized a dream by winning this belt. I am very happy,” said Beterbiev to TVA Sports. “I’m ready for Adonis. It’s not personal, it’s only athletic. I just want another belt.”

The southpaw Stevenson would be a real problem for Beterbiev due to his power, speed and experience. Beterbiev is a lot slower of hand and foot than Stevenson, and he would have to take a lot of heavy shots for him to have a chance of wearing him down. Even Koelling was connecting with head shots on Beterbiev , and he doesn’t have hand speed anywhere close to that of Stevenson. It would be in Beterbiev’s best interest for him to get a little more experience under his belt at the pro level before he tries to get a unification fight with a dangerous puncher like Stevenson.

Beterbiev is a 2-time Russian Olympian with over 300 amateur bouts, but he’s only fought 12 times as a pro. Moreover, Beterbiev hasn’t been all that active in the last 2 years of his career due to injuries and promotional problems. Beterbiev fought twice in 2016 and once in 2017. Beterbiev’s next fight will likely be in early 2018. To take on a fighter as talented as Stevenson, should get a few more fights under his belt against the likes of Gvozdyk, Marcus Browne and Juergen Brahmer.

If Beterbiev can’t get a unification fight against Stevenson in the near future, he might want to look to face the winner of the Sergey Kovalev vs. Vyacheslav Shabranskyy. Those two fighters will be facing each other this month on November 25 for the vacant WBO light heavyweight title. If Beterbiev can fight the winner of the Kovalev-Shabranskyy fight, he’ll have a chance to pick up the WBO title. He can then use his two titles as bait to try and lure Stevenson into facing him. There’s also newly crowned WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol. He would be a good option for Beterbiev to face if he gets past Sullivan Barrera in his first defense. Beterbiev should go after the winner of the Bivol-Barrera fight.

Beterbiev vs. Stevenson would be an excellent fight for Canada. For that fight to happen, Beterbiev will likely need to wait until 2019. Stevenson usually fights 2 times a year, and he’ll likely be facing Jack in January and then Eleider Alvarez in the second half of 2018. In 2016 and 2017, Stevenson fought only once per year. He’s slowing down the frequency of his fights for whatever reason. That’s bad news for Stevenson, as he’s not going to get the most out of the remainder of his career.

It’s also bad for Beterbiev and the boxing fans, since it makes it unlikely that we’ll be seeing a unification fight between him and Stevenson anytime soon, if at all. Stevenson hasn’t shown much desire to take unification fights in the past against the likes of Sergey Kovalev, so it’s difficult to imagine that he’ll suddenly want to fight Beterbiev.

Beterbiev is looking to get a new promoter. He’s going to court to see if he can get free from his agreement with his promoter GYM Group. Beterbiev will find out soon if he’ll be able to part with them or if he’ll stay. For Beterbiev’s sake, hopefully he won’t be out of the ring for an extended amount of time while his court case is being decided. He needs to stay busy. Beterbiev is hoping to get the case settled soon. He wants to make his first defense of his IBF.

“I want to sign a new contract with another promoter,” said Beterbiev.

It’s unclear whether Beterbiev’s first defense will be against his highest rated contender with the International Boxing Federation or if he’ll be able to make a voluntary defense against a lower rated contender. The next highest contender in the IBF’s rankings at 175 is Oleksandr Gvozdyk, who was present at ringside for Beterbiev’s fight against Koelling last Saturday night.

The fact that Gvozdyk was there to watch Beterbiev-Koelling live, suggests that he could be the next guy that faces Beterbiev. That would be a very tough first defense for Beterbiev, because Gvozdyk is a highly skilled fighter with speed, power, mobility and good boxing skills. Beterbiev will need to show more speed and better combination punching against Gvozdyk than what he displayed against Koelling last Saturday.

Beterbiev was too one-paced in the Koelling fight, and he made it less than crowd-pleasing fight for the boxing fans to watch. Indeed, the fans were booing the slow pace of the fight from the first few rounds until Beterbiev finally stepped on the gas in the 12th round to get the knockout.

Beterbiev needs to speed up the pace of his fights, and show an increased sense of urgency if he hopes to win over the boxing fans in the U.S and Canada. The pace that he fought at against Koeling was incredibly slow for the type of opponent he was facing. Koelling isn’t a big puncher, and yet Beterbiev took zero changes against him until the 12th round. There was too much respect that Beterbiev showed for Koelling, and he ended up making it boring for the fans that had come to watch the fight card at the Save Mart Arena.

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