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Artur Beterbiev to fight IBF eliminator next

Artur Beterbiev boxing photo

By Allan Fox: Unbeaten #2 IBF light heavyweight contender Artur Beterbiev (11-0, 11 KOs) and his promoters are looking to put the Russian fighter in an IBF eliminator next. If Beterbiev wins the fight, he’ll be the IBF mandatory challenger to face the winner of the Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev fight. If that fight doesn’t take place, then Beterbiev will fight one of them for the vacant IBF 175lb title.

Beterbiev’s promoter Yvon Michel is working on finding an opponent for him to fight in eliminator. There’s talk that he’s having some difficulties getting a top guy to agree to fight the 31-year-old Beterbiev. That’s not hard to believe. The way that Beterbiev just destroyed a very good fighter in Isidro Ranoni Prieto (26-2-3, 22 KOs) in one round on December 23, it’s not altogether surprising that the top guys aren’t chomping at the bit to fight him.

Beterbiev’s popularity is skyrocketing in the boxing world after his 1st round TKO win over Prieto. The way that Beterbiev is being talked about now, he’s like another Gennady “GGG” Golovkin. You can compare the interest in Beterbiev to that of the interest that surrounds GGG. But with Beterbiev, he’s done it faster, and he’s done it without his fights being shown on HBO over and over again like we’ve seen with Golovkin.

There’s no telling how far Beterbiev can go if he keeps winning and if his fights are televised in the U.S. The boxing fans can’t enough of him right now, and he’s only been a pro for here years now. Beterbiev missed a year from June 2015 to June 2016 due to him suffering a shoulder injury and needing a lot of time off to heal and recover. Since coming back, Beterbiev has flattened Eziquiel Osvaldo Maderna and Isidro Ranoni Preito in fast knockouts. Maderna was stopped in the 4th round by Beterbiev last June. No one has made it past the 7th round against Beterbiev during his short pro career. That’s impressive.

Here are the top 15 contenders in the International Boxing Federation’s December rankings:


2 Artur Beterbiev

3 Sergey Kovalev

4 Erik Skoglund

5 Sean Monaghan

6 Enrico Kolling

7 Marcus Browne

8 Oleksandr Gvozdyk

9 Igor Mikhalkin

10 Vyacheslav Shabransky

11 Robert Stieglitz

12 Trent Broadhurst

13 Sullivan Barrera

14 Michael Lee

15 Radivoje Kalajdric

Beterbiev wants to be locked into a guaranteed title shot against the winner of the Ward-Kovalev fight. The only way he can do that is by fighting in the IFL eliminator bout. You can’t count on the winner of the Ward vs. Kovalev 2 fight to face a dangerous puncher like Beterbiev without them having to be forced to defend the title. Furthermore, there’s no guarantee that Ward and Kovalev won’t continue to fight each other if allowed to after their second fight. Without the IBF telling the winner of the second fight that they need to defend the title against the new mandatory, and who’s to say that they don’t keep fighting each other repeatedly. There’s more money in Ward and Kovalev fighting each other than there would be for them to fight a dangerous guy like Beterbiev.

It’s quite possible that Beterbiev’s promoter will need to move down the list to the lower ranked contenders before he can find one that will agree to take the fight against Beterbiev. Someone like Sullivan Barrera would be an ideal opponent for Beterbiev to fight in the IBF eliminator, but he’s talking about wanting to face 34-year-old Jean Pascal next. Pascal is a fringe contender at this point. Barrera seems more interested in taking a safe opponent next rather than taking a risky fight against Beterbiev.

Yvon Michel said this to about Beterbiev’s outlook for 2017:

“Definitely in 2017, Artur will be champion” Michel said. “Whether he fights Kovalev, whether he fights Ward or [for] a vacant title if they don’t want to fight.”

Skoglund and Monaghan would be good options for Beterbiev. However, those fighters have good promoters, who will likely choose to wait for them to slowly work their way to a No.1 spot and be given a world title shot rather than having to fight for it against a dangerous guy like Beterbiev. There’s no reason for them to have to fight Beterbiev in an IBF eliminator when they can continue to rack up wins against lesser fighters until they’re given the No.1 spot. By that point, they could wind up facing Beterbiev in a title shot if he wins the IBF title in 2017.

Unbeaten Oleksandr Gvozdyk (12-0, 10 KOs) is another good contender that some boxing fans believe will eventually win a world title. Gvozdyk would be a good test for Beterbiev, as he’s 2012 Olympic bronze medalist from Ukraine and he’s looked good since turning pro. Gvozdyk was beaten by Adilet Niyazimbetov from Kazakhstan in the semifinal of the 2012 Olympics. Gvozdyk’s promoters at Top Rank are steering him towards a title shot against WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson. They must believe the 29-year-old Gvozyk is capable of beating the 38-year-old Stevenson; otherwise they would target the Ward-Kovalev winner or better yet, WBA ‘regular’ champion Nathan Cleverly. Gvozdyk is ranked #3 with the World Boxing Council.

It’s questionable whether Andre Ward will choose to take a fight against Beterbiev if he beats Kovalev in their still to be scheduled rematch. Ward’s talk of retirement leaves a lot of questions about how much longer he’s going to press on with his career if he gets past Kovalev a second time. If Ward is forced to fight Beterbiev in 2017, it would be a very difficult fight for him, especially if he all he can do is wrestle. That appears to be the case. Ward seems to have lot of his boxing skills through age and activity. He’s now left pretty much with just his standup wrestling skills. That won’t cut it against Beterbiev, because he’s a better fighter in close than Ward in my view.

Michael Griffin, who worked the Beterbiev-Prieto fight as the referee, said this to about his thoughts on Beterbiev being able to compete against Kovalev and Ward:

“I don’t know if anybody hits that hard,” said Griffin. “Is he going to beat Kovalev? Is he going to beat Andre Ward? I don’t know. But does he belong in the same ring as them? Absolutely. There’s no other level that he could be at. He’s a top five guy in the world.”

The IBF needs to select someone for Beterbiev to fight in the IBF ranking or else give him the #1 mandatory spot by default if all the top fighters turn down a fight against him. Beterbiev can’t have his career stalled out due to the top fighters in the IBF’s ranking wanting nothing to do with fighting him. That’s a sign of the respect that the top contenders have in the Russian Beterbiev, because if they thought he was an easy touch, he’d already have an opponent agreeing to fight him by now.

If Beterbiev can win the IBF title against the winner of the Ward-Kovalev fight in 2017, it would be a big accomplishment, and it would turn him into a star overnight. I don’t know if Ward would want a second fight against Beterbiev if he loses to him. It would depend on how badly Ward loses the fight. I think if Beterbiev knocks Ward out, he’ll send the Oakland native into a permanent retirement. I can’t see Ward wanting a second helping of Beterbiev if he KOs him and shows that he’s got his number. If you saw how bad Ward looked against Kovalev, it’s pretty obvious that he doesn’t have much left in the tank at 32. The only thing Ward has left is his grappling skills in my opinion, and that’s not going to work against Beterbiev. I think Beterbiev beats Ward easier than he does Kovalev, who he already defeated twice in the amateur ranks when the two of them were fighting in Russia.

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