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Artur Beterbiev vs. Callum Johnson on October 6

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By Tim Royner: IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev will be defending his title against #8 IBF Callum ‘The One’ Johnson on October 6 in a fight that will be staged in the United States, according to promoter Eddie Hearn.

Johnson, 32, will need to come of the States to challenge the Canada based two-time Olympian Beterbiev (12-0, 12 KOs). Johnson is now the mandatory challenger to Beterbiev for his maiden title defense of his IBF strap that he won last November in stopping Enrico Koelling in the 12th round.

Beterbiev’s management wasn’t able to get any of the higher ranked International Boxing Federation ranked contenders to take the fight with him. The IBF needed to go all the way down to No.8 in their rankings before they were able to get Callum Johnson to take the fight. If Johnson were younger and more active, it’s likely that Hearn wouldn’t have matched him against the 33-year-old Beterbiev.

Johnson isn’t young or busy enough with his career for him to take things slowly the way that guys like Anthony Yarde is doing. Johnson likely would be in his mid-30s by the time he got a title shot if he chose to reject the fight against Beterbiev. Johnson is simply not active enough for him to be moved up the ranking at a speedy pace, and his opposition has been poor.

”Please to agree a deal for Callum ‘The One’ to challenge Artur Beterbiev for the IBF World title,” Hearn said on his Twitter. ”Fight will take place October 6 in the US – full details soon.”

Johnson says he’s not afraid of Beterbiev, which is a good thing, but it might not mean much at the end of the day. Johnson’s fighting style is made to order for Beterbiev. He likes to fight sluggers, and he’s always done well against those types of fighters. Unless Johnson is able to retool his game, he’s going to wind up as knockout victim No.13 for Beterbiev. It really doesn’t matter if Johnson isn’t afraid of Beterbiev. Without coming up with a different fight strategy against Beterbiev, Johnson is going to get knocked out if he comes and slugs it out.

Johnson recently defeated British light heavyweight champion Frank Buglioni by a 1st round knockout last March in a total blowout at the O2 Arena in London, England. Buglioni played to Smith’s strengths by coming out fast looking to go to war in the 1st round, and he quickly paid for it by getting stopped right away. As bad as Buglioni looked in that fight, I don’t think it would have mattered much even if he’d taken things slowly.

Beterbiev has looked great since turning pro in 2013, but his career has been slowed by injuries and inactivity. Beterbiev should be so much further along with his career if he’d been busier and injury free. He was recently looking to end his contract with his promoter Yvon Michel, but he lost his court case and will be with him until 2021. Beterbiev is currently appealing the court’s ruling.

“I’m in the game to be in the biggest and best fights possible,” Callum Johnson said to skysports.com. “I’ve dreamt of winning a world title since I was a kid so I’m not going to turn down this chance because he [Beterbiev] is this apparent beast. I believe I am a beast as well and can beat him,” Johnson said.

Johnson hasn’t beaten anyone in Beterbiev’s class during his career. Johnson’s best wins have come against Buglioni and Wilbeforce Shihepo. Those guys aren’t in the same talent category of Beterbiev. Johnson has looked good since turning pro in 2010, but his opposition has been abominable. He’s faced too many poor opponents for such a long time. His promoter has been slow in moving him up against better opposition for some reason, and now he’s about to turn 33 and has little to show for his career. Is that Johnson’s fault or his promoter? I think it’s a little of both. If Johnson had been more assertive with his management to step him up against better fighters, then he would have fought top guys a long time ago instead of waiting until he was almost 33 to finally take a huge step up in class. Going from fighting Buglioni to Beterbiev is going to be a major shock to Johnson, and I’m not sure that he’s going to be able to do so.

”I don’t fear any man so all the talk of how big and strong he is, his power, it’s all very well and good, but at the end of the day, he’s human. I don’t fear him,” Johnson said.

It’s good that Johnson is talking boldly about not being afraid of Beterbiev, but he;s going to need a lot more than false confidence for him to beat the Russian fighter on October 6.

Beterbiev having to wait until October 6 before he defends his title for the first time isn’t a good thing because it means he’ll have been out of the ring for 11 months by the time he faces Johnson. That is not good for Beterbiev, because he was out of the ring for 11 months the last time he fought in beating Koelling last November, and he did not look at all sharp in the fight. Beerbiev appeared ring rusty and mechanical throughout the contest. Beterbiev was much better in his fights two to three years ago against Isidro Ranoni Prieto and Ezequiel Maderna.


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