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Beterbiev challenges Kovalev to unification match

Artur Beterbiev

By Chris Williams: IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev (13-0, 13 KOs) has called out WBO champ Sergey ‘Krusher” Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 KOs) for a unification fight following Sergey’s big win over Eleider Alvarez last Saturday. Kovalev regained his WBO title by beating Alvarez by a 12 round unanimous decision in Frisco, Texas.

After the fight, Kovalev, 35, made it clear that he’d like to fight Beterbiev in a unification. Beterbiev and WBC light heavyweight champion Oleksander Gvozdyk are both options for Kovalev to take if he decides he wants to risk his WBO title in a unification match. However, Kovalev was twice beaten by Beterbiev in the amateur ranks in 2006 and 2007 when both guys were in Russia many years ago. Kovalev has improved dramatically since that time, and it’s hard to take much from those two fights. Beterbiev edged Kovalev by a 25-24 score in their fight in 2007.

“Now, he has a belt,” said Beterbiev to the journalist Nancy Audet at “I also have a belt. This is the right time to do a unification fight is a big fight. Come on, let’s do it. Let’s do it, Kovalev. We can fight.”

Kovalev will need to make a calculated decision before he takes this fight with the hard hitting Beterbiev. This is a much tougher fight for Kovalev than his last one against Alvarez, due to the power and outstanding amateur pedigree that Beterbiev possesses. Kovalev struggles against fighters with a good inside game, and Beterbiev is arguably a better inside fighter than Andre Ward. Beterbiev is capable of punching hard at close range. He doesn’t need to grapple with his opponents on the inside to beat them the way Ward does. Beterbiev can knock guys out in close. Kovalev would do better against Gvozdyk, who primarily keeps the action at range in his fights unlike Beterbiev, who can fight on the inside and outside.

Beterbiev, 33, last fought in October in knocking out Callum Johnson in the 4th round. Beterbiev has now been out of action for four months, and he still doesn’t have an opponent scheduled. If his management can put together a unification fight against Kovalev, it’s a fight would probably take place in the summer. That would be good for Kovalev, but maybe not a good deal for Beterbiev, who has been inactive much of the time in the last couple of years. Beterbiev didn’t look that sharp in his recent fight with Johnson. Although Beterbiev knocked Johnson out in the fourth round, he was dropped in the fight, and looked exhausted when the fight was over. Johnson isn’t a great talent, but he gave Beterbiev all he could handle. Beterbiev’s punching power was very much evident in that fight. Johnson’s face was a bloody mess age the time of the stoppage in the 4th. Beterbiev didn’t land a lot of shots in the fight, but his punches did tremendous damage.

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