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Artur Beterbiev vs. Sullivan Barrera fight canceled for April 21

Artur Beterbiev boxing photo

By Dan Ambrose: Yvon Michel, the promoter for unbeaten light heavyweight contender Artur Beterbiev, says that his April 21st scheduled fight against Sullivan Barrera has been canceled. The 34-year-old Barrera (18-1, 13 KOs) never signed the contract for the Beterbiev fight, which was supposed to have been an IBF light heavyweight eliminator bout.

The winner of the Beterbiev-Barrera fight would have been the mandatory challenger for IBF 175 lb. champion Andre Ward. Michel is very unhappy with the time that Beterbiev spent in getting ready for the fight, as well as the negotiations. Beterbiev was going to face Barrera in Miami, Florida, which is where the Cuban fighter lives.

Michel is going to ask the International Boxing Federation to make Beterbiev (11-0, 11 KOs) the outright IBF mandatory without him having to fight for the position. Before Barrera agreed to fight Beterbiev recently, 5 other contenders in the IBF’s rankings had reportedly turned down the fight with Beterbiev.

“I learned it only a few hours ago,” said Yvon Michel by the The Canadian Press. Barrera never signed the contract. Whatever the reasons he is going to invoke, it is because he does not want to get into the same ring as Beterbiev. Contrary to what he publicly stated, he never wanted to. That he does not want to face Artur, it does not bother me. Others have done it before him. But not once we are so far in the process. It’s been five weeks since the bidding took place! We have committed significant sums of money to this project already, and it will be for nothing.”

There was already a purse bid for the Beterbiev vs. Barrera fight that took place. It’s all very unusual that Barrera wouldn’t take the fight after all of this.

Barrera isn’t saying why he pulled out of the fight. He says the truth will come out soon. Here’s what Barrera said on his Twitter:
“I have never back from any opponent. My record tells you this business is business, and the true will come out,” said Barrera. “I will look forward to fight soon.”

Hopefully, Barrera doesn’t find it difficult to get top fighters to agree to fight him after this. If his opponents aren’t sure if he’s going to stick it out through the whole process to actually fight him, they might not feel comfortable agreeing to face him in the first place. It’s too bad Barrera isn’t telling the boxing fans what the problem is that is keeping him from taking the fight because it’s something people want to know.

Michel sees Barrera’s move as a case of him not wanting to get inside the ring with Beterbiev, who has been knocking out his opponents left and right. There’s questions whether IBF champion Andre Ward will stick around long enough to fight Beterbiev, because he’s got an inside fighting style that would make it very difficult. Ward likes to hold and wrestle. Beterbiev is dangerous on the inside. Ward would have to find some other way of winning besides holding and wrestling.

Beterbiev is ranked #2 by the IBF, #3 WBA, and #3 WBO. He’s in the position to soon get a title shot against Ward even without the Barrera fight. It’ll be up to the IBF to decide if they want to have Beterbiev use up more time trying to get one of the contenders to face him. It could take a while for Michel to find an opponent for Beterbiev.

Once he finds someone that is willing to take the fight, they would need to go through the negotiations, and that could take a while. Then there would be training camp, and that’s another 2 months of time. I could take a long time for Beterbiev to get inside the ring to fight. However, it’s questionable whether Beterbiev would get a title shot against Ward in 2017 anyway.

Ward still hasn’t fought a rematch against Sergey Kovalev yet despite there being a rematch clause in their contract from their previous fight. It wouldn’t be surprising if Beterbiev has to wait until 2018 before he gets a title shot against Ward if he doesn’t vacate his IBF title rather than defending it. You have to remember, Ward also holds the WBA and WBO titles. He could vacate the IBF title without it doing much.

“We are going to ask the IBF that Artur is declared immediately compulsory aspirant,” said Michel. “I will try to show them that the other ranked aspirants are either busy or they will refuse the fight. I also expect Barrera to be suspended from the rankings by the IBF. ”

If the IBF makes Beterbiev the immediate mandatory challenger, that would make things easy for him. He could then possibly get a shot at the IBF title in 2017 if the IBF gives Ward 90 days to make the fight. That’s not much time obviously, but it would hurry up the process. Beterbiev has already wasted a lot of time on the Barrera fight.

Beterbiev vs. Barrera would have been a very good fight if it had taken place. Barrera has punching power and boxing skills. It would have been the first real test for the 32-year-old Beterbiev if the fight had taken place.

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