Artur Beterbiev vs. Callum Johnson next Saturday
By Trevor McIntyre: Artur Beterbiev will be defending his IBF light heavyweight title next Saturday night on October 6 against unbeaten knockout artist Callum Johnson on DAZN at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois.
This is a fight that few boxing fans would have seen as a competitive one had it taken place three years ago when Beterbiev was still fighting on a fairly frequent basis, but things have changed a lot in the last two years due to the Russian fighter’s injury and promotional problems that has greatly slowed his career to a crawl since 2016.
The card is headlined by former two-division welterweight champion Jessie Vargas vs. Thomas Dulorme. It’s not much of a fight for a headliner, but some fans might like it. Vargas (28-2-1, 10 KO) is someone that British promoter Eddie Hearn is trying to rebuild to put him in position for a world title.
This is a Matchroom Boxing USA card promoted by Eddie Hearn. The other notable fights on the card are as follows:
– Daniel Roman vs. Gavin McDonnell
– Jessie Vargas vs. Thomas Dulorme
– Jarrell ‘Big Baby’ Miller vs. Tomas Adamek
Although the 33-year-old Johnson doesn’t have the same kind of amateur experience as Beterbiev, he still packs a punch and he looks to be the younger fighter physically, even though he’s technically the same age as him. Johnson doesn’t have as many miles on him as Beterbiev due to his shorter amateur career, and he’s also not experiencing the same injury problems as the Russian fighter has been suffering. Johnson has the same kind of punching power as Beterbiev, and both are around the same size.
This could be the toughest fight of Beterbiev’s career, as he’s not faced anyone reportedly as dangerous or as talented as Johnson. Beterbiev’s best opponents thus far during his five year career has been against Enrico Koelling and Alexander ‘Woody’ Johnson. Those fighters are not even close to being as powerful and as dangerous as Callum Johnson. Jeff Page knocked Beterbiev down in the 1st round of their fight in 2015. Beterbiev came back in round 2 to get the knockout, but Page exposed him in that fight by nailing him with a right hand to send him to the canvas None of Beterbiev’s fights have been close since then. However, Beterbiev looked awfully slow in his last fight against Koelling. Beterbiev’s hand speed wasn’t there for that fight, and it appears that he’s starting to slow down. Beterbiev could be vulnerable against Johnson if he doesn’t show some more speed on Saturday.
Beterbiev has yet to show that he belongs with the best fighters at 175 yet. His performance against Koelling last November suggests that he’s not in the same class as these fighters at light heavyweight: Badou Jack, Adonis Stevenson, Eleider Alvarez, Dmitry Bivolv, Sergey Kovalev, Marcus Browne and Oleksandr Gvozdyk. Those guys are looking a lot better in there fights than Beterbiev. It’ll have been 11 months since Beterbiev last fought when he gets inside the ring with Johnson next Saturday. Beterbiev’s last fight was in November of last year. Before that, Beterbiev had been out of the ring for 11 months. Beterbiev was also out of action from 2015 to 2016 with a shoulder injury. So what we’re looking at is a fighter with huge gaps of inactivity during the last three years. Beterbiev has been fighting only half the time since 2015. It wouldn’t be an issue if Beterbiev looked good in his last fight, but he didn’t. He looked slow. it’s not just injuries that has contributed to Beterbiev’s inactivity problems. He’s also had promotional problems that has gotten in the way of him returning to the ring. Despite his inactivity, Beterbiev is still the favorite to beat Johnson on Saturday.
It’s a considerable step up for Johnson to be taking on Beterbiev. It might be too soon for Johnson to be taking on a fighter like Beterbiev. Up to now, Johnson’s best opponent on his resume is Frank Buglioni and Willbeforce Shihepo. Johnson won both fights, but those guys are not in the same league as Beterbiev in terms of talent. Johnson is going to need to pace himself in this fight for him to have a chance of winning. If he bum rushes Beterbiev in the first or second round, he could tire himself out and wind up getting knocked out. It won’t be surprising if Johnson does win this fight though, because he’s got a guy that he won’t have to go looking for on the night. Beterbiev ill be standing there right in front of him.