Artur Beterbiev vs. Meng Fanlong on September 25 on ESPN+

By Boxing News - 08/06/2020 - Comments

By Jeff Aronow:  Artur Beterbiev has a new date of September 25 to defend his IBF light heavyweight title against his mandatory challenger Meng Fanlong in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Beterbiev vs. Fanglong is possible for ESPN+ in the U.S, according to Dan Rafael.

It’s a pity that Beterbiev, 35, has been forced to wait for almost an entire year to get his mandated title defense against Meng, 32, out of the way because this is a low-level type of fight.

The 2012 Russian Olympian Beterbiev will be emerging from an 11-month layoff when he faces Fanlong on September 25. In Beterbiev’s last performance, he stopped WBC 175-pound champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-1, 14 KOs) in the 10th round in Philadelphia.

It was a good contest between the two Olympians. Beterbiev proved a lot of the boxing fans and bettors wrong by taking the fight to the previously unbeaten Gvozdyk to wear him down and stop him.

The body shots that Beterbiev through in the fight were brutal, and they ultimately are what changed the course of the bout in the second half.

Beterbiev with better fights out there

The huge-punching Beterbiev will be looking to score his 16th consecutive knockout and his fourth title defense of his IBF 175lb strap that he captured in 2017 in beating Enrico Koelling.

Beterbiev hasn’t been active as he would have liked due to the combination management problems as well a the pandemic.

Image: Artur Beterbiev vs. Meng Fanlong on September 25 on ESPN+

Meng isn’t popular, and he’s done little to deserve his #1 ranking and mandatory spot with the International Boxing Federation. Beterbiev has much bigger fights out there for him against WBA champ Dmitry Bivol, Gilberto Ramirez, Joshua Buatsi, Jean Pascal, and Eleider Alvarez.

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum had hoped that Canelo Alvarez would look in Beterbiev’s direction after he beat WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev last November.

Canelo, however, decided he didn’t want to hold onto the WBO 175lb belt, so he vacated and moved back down to 168. Beterbiev vs. Canelo would have been a great fight.

Losing an entire year of his career waiting to get Meng out of the way is a real time-waster. But with the situation with the pandemic, Beterbiev wouldn’t have been able to fight anyone in the last year.

When this is over with, Beterbiev needs to decide whether it’s worth it for him to try and unify the 175 lb division because he’s not young at 35. He’ll consume valuable time-fighting challengers that the U.S and Canadian boxing fans have no interest in seeing him defending against him.

Should Beterbiev hold onto the IBF title?

It would be better for Beterbiev to vacate the IBF and let Meng battle someone like Joshua Buatsi for the belt. Beterbiev would then be able to move on and take on the guys that boxing fans want to see him fight.

With the sometimes truly bizarre contenders in the IBF’s rankings, it would be a good move for Beterbiev to give up that belt and focus on his WBC title because the challengers make more sense with that belt. If Beterbiev chooses to keep the IBF title, he’ll need to be prepared for more challengers that have done nothing to deserve a title shot.

To earn the #1 ranking with the IBF, Fanlong beat these fighters:

  • Chris Eppley
  • Frank Buglioni
  • Adam Deines

Ideally, it would be better for the boxing fans that don’t have the ESPN+ app for Top Rank to show the Beterbiev-Fanlong fight on regular ESPN, as many of them will miss it otherwise and then wait to watch it on Youtube after it’s posted there.

Image: Artur Beterbiev vs. Meng Fanlong on September 25 on ESPN+

Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KOs) was supposed to defend against the 2012 Chinese Olympian Fanlong five months ago on March 28 in Quebec City, Canadia. The fight needed to be postponed because of the pandemic.