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4 Feb, 2020 17:28

Clash of the champions: Knockout king Artur Beterbiev and light heavyweight No. 1 Dmitry Bivol eye stadium fight in St Petersburg

Clash of the champions: Knockout king Artur Beterbiev and light heavyweight No. 1 Dmitry Bivol eye stadium fight in St Petersburg

Representatives of feared light heavyweight compatriots Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol have begun talks over a stadium fight in Russia later this year, potentially setting up a compelling clash between two unbeaten champions.

Bob Arum, who co-promotes Beterbiev, has turned his attention to Bivol and is targeting an agreement with the WBA title holder’s co-promoter, Eddie Hearn, after Canelo Alvarez opted to move down a weight division following his win over Sergey Kovalev in November.

The Boxing Federation of Russia wants to host the unification fight at the Gazprom Arena in St. Petersburg in August, pitting the Kyrgyzstan-born technician and current light heavyweight number one against knockout artist Beterbiev.

Hearn could be forgiven for remaining reluctant to match one of his other Matchroom fighters, including WBA super-middleweight champion Callum Smith, against an opponent with Beterbiev’s record in the immediate future.

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None of the IBF and WBC champion’s 15 adversaries in the ring have heard the final bell, although his peak may be approaching at the age of 35, as well as the amount of time the Montreal-based fighter has to agree deals as lucrative as one at Zenit’s 68,000-capacity home promises to be.

Beterbiev faces a mandatory date closer to home in the meantime, defending his IBF crown against top-ranked contender and 2016 Chinese Olympian Fanlong Meng in Montreal on March 28.

Bivol is expecting “a battle” in the US “somewhere in mid-April”. Hearn offered Badou Jack a title shot at him via Twitter at the start of the year, and Bivol says a test against former WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez is also under consideration. “These are good boxing names that are interesting to me,” he added.

Speaking after Beterbiev stopped Oleksandr Gvozdyk in the 10th round of their fight in Philadelphia in October, Arum said Bivol “will have priority” after the defense against Fanlong, telling tass.ru: “We know about the desire to fight Bivol. He will have priority and we can organize such a fight in 2020.

“I don’t think it’s fair to Canelo to fight a guy [Beterbiev] that big. Gvozdyk fought very, very well, and we have a lot of light heavyweight fights that we are doing.”

An understandably confident Beterbiev has pledged to fight any opponent in his bid to unify the division, pledging in the ring after his victory over Gvozdyk: “I am focused on titles, not names.

“When I got the second belt, I had more motivation. My training used to be so-so, but now I do it very hard.”

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Bivol has admitted he “doesn’t know, but believes” he could beat Beterbiev. “I believe in my boxing skills,” he explained to Little Giant Boxing, analyzing the come-forward style that led to defeat for Gvozdyk and alluding to his own more sophisticated tactics.

“Beterbiev has good power. If you [come to] fight Beterbiev, you almost have no chance.”