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Will Canelo dare fight Beterbiev after Kovalev?

Artur Beterbiev Canelo Alvarez Sergey Kovalev

By Allan Fox: Artur Beterbiev sent a huge message to the likes of Saul Canelo Alvarez and the other top fighters in the sport with his 10th round knockout victory over WBC light heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-1, 14 KOs) in a unification match at 175 last Friday night.

The victory for IBF light heavyweight champion Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KOs) puts huge pressure on the winner of the November 2 fight between WBO 175-lb champion Sergey Kovalev (34-3-1, 29 KOs) and Canelo Alvarez to face him. On social media, boxing fans are saying Canelo will chicken out, and not fight Beterbiev if he wins the WBO title against Kovalev. The fans point out that Canelo picked the perceived weakest of the light heavyweight champions to fight in Kovalev, and they doubt that he’ll want any part of Beterbiev.

Canelo can’t fight Beterbiev on the inside

The real problem for Canelo is Beterbiev is an even better inside fighter than he is. Canelo wouldn’t be able to count on taking the fight to the inside against Beterbiev to try and win like he did in his second fight with Gennadiy Golovkin. It’s expected that Canelo will try and fight Kovalev on the inside to take advantage of his weakness in handling body shots. But in the case of Beterbiev, Canelo won’t be able to fight him on the inside, and count on beating him in that way. Beterbiev would likely stop Canelo quickly if he fights him in close.

Fighting in front of 3,283 boxing fans last Friday night at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, 34-year-old two-time Russian Olympian Beterbiev defeated Gvozdyk to become the IBF/WBC light heavyweight champion.

Beterbiev wore Gvozdyk down with body shots

It wasn’t easy for Beterbiev to beat Gvozdyk, as he had to follow the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist around the ring, and take big shots from him in the process of stopping him in the 10th. Gvozdyk clinched like mad in the 10th round to try and survive after Beterbiev hurt him with a body shot. The body shots were devastating from Beterbiev. When he started going downstairs with punches to the midsection of Gvozdyk in round 9, he fell apart quickly. Gvozdyk couldn’t take the straight right hands that Beterbiev was hitting him with to the body. It didn’t matter that Gvozdyk knew the punches were coming. They had so much power behind them, and there was nothing he could do about it other than hold.

It didn’t work for Gvozdyk, as Beterbiev continued to hit him hard to the body. When Gvozdyk would attempt to clinch, Beterbiev began nailing him with shorts in close. This led to Gvozdyk being dropped 3 times. After the third knockdown, referee Gary Rosato stopped the fight.

Canelo will face intense pressure to fight Beterbiev

The boxing public already views Canelo Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs) as a cherry picker for selecting what many believe to be the WEAKEST of the light heavyweight champions to fight in 36-year-old Kovalev. If Canelo wins that fight, he’s going to be expected to face Beterbiev. Whether Canelo likes it or not, he’s going to look tarnished if he chooses not to fight Beterbiev, and moves back down to 160 to take on lesser threats.

If Canelo beats Kovalev, the boxing public will want him to stand up to Beterbiev, and show that he can beat the best fighter in the light heavyweight division. A fight between Canelo and Beterbiev would be huge right now, because it would be one of the few matches where Alvarez would be a clear underdog going in. This wouldn’t be a situation where Canelo is fighting a 36-year-old Gennadiy Golovkin. Beterbiev isn’t a fading fighter, and he has the power to take the judges out of place.

For Canelo to go 12 rounds against Beterbiev, it would require a different type of game plan what he’s shown in the past. Canelo is good at using head movement, which gave the head-hunter GGG lots of problems. But with Beterbiev, he throws to the body, and Canelo will have a lot more problems trying to dodge those shots.

Beterbiev still needs to capture WBA & WBO titles

It’s still not established yet whether Beterbiev is the #1 guy at 175, as he still hasn’t fought Kovalev or WBA champion Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11 KOs). However, after the last performances by both of those fighters, they don’t look anywhere the level that Beterbiev is fighting at. Bivol looked poor in beating fringe contender Lenin Castillo (20-3-1, 15 KOs) last Saturday night on October 12 in Chicago, Illinois. That fight showed that Bivol lacks the punching power to be the #1 guy at light heavyweight. Bivol looks more like a super middleweight in terms of punching power, and that’s not going to work for him when he shares the ring with Beterbiev.

It’s going to take a while before Beterbiev can fight for the WBA and WBO titles. Since it’s likely that Canelo will vacate the WBO title rather than face Beterbiev, that belt will need to be fought for by the next highest ranked contenders in the WBO’s rankings. If Kovalev beats Canelo, he’ll likely be willing to face Beterbiev, but that’s still not a given. Kovalev hasn’t fought Beterbiev all these years that he’s been a belt holder at 175. Why would that change now? Bivol will probably be the easier fight for Beterbiev to get because he’s spoken recently of wanting to unify the light heavyweight division, and he’s in his prime.

Gvozdyk called his own timeout after being hurt by body shot in 9th

The writing was on the wall in the 9th round when Beterbiev hurt Gvozdyk with a body shot that caused him to turn to the referee and seemingly call a timeout. For some reason, the referee LET Gvozdyk call a timeout after what was clearly a body shot ABOVE the belt that had hurt him. It was very unusual to see that kind of thing happen with a world champion.

The referee Gary Rosato. It’s a good thing that the referee’s mistake didn’t impact the fight. If Gvozdyk had won a decision last night, a lot of boxing fans would be pointing their fingers at the referee Rosato in allowing Gvozdyk to call a timeout after he was hurt by a body shot. Fighters aren’t supposed to be able to call timeout when they’re hurt. That’s something fighters do during training camp, not during their fights. Rosato shouldn’t have let Gvozdyk do that.

“This fight may be my last fight, you know, but I’m happy for the end,” said Beterbiev after dispatching Gvozdyk. “We work in the gym We work hard, and we have some targets. My first target, second target and other one comes soon. It doesn’t matter [who I fight next].  Anyone. I’m focused on title, not on name,” said Beterbiev.

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