Champion boxer on collision course with Russian rival
18-0 Russian Artur Beterbiev has his hands full later this month when the takes on the tough Briton Anthony Yarde, but after that he says he wants to focus his efforts on finally making a fight with compatriot Dmitry Bivol a reality.
The 37-year-old Beterbiev has established himself as one of boxing’s foremost power-punchers throughout his career, winning each of his fights by knockout en route to capturing IBF, WBC and WBO titles at 175lbs.
In Yarde, he takes on another fearsome knockout artist but, provided he emerges unscathed from this latest test, Beterbiev has pulled no punches in announcing what he wants as his next challenge.
“We have both signed a contract to fight. He is trying to hit me as hard as he can and I am doing the same. There are no feelings,” said Beterbiev of Yarde, whom he fights at London's Wembley Arena on January 28.
“After the fight I just hope he is OK. Do I enjoy knocking people out? No. There’s no pleasure in it. I just hope everything is OK with them.
“I just want to do good boxing, not hit people.”
But when it comes to Bivol, Beterbiev, the recent conqueror of the legendary Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, admits that this is a challenge he has really been chasing.
“I need Bivol,” he said of the 21-0 Russian star. “I’d prefer to fight Bivol because he has the one thing I need.
“I hope I fight him in 2023 but the hold-up is not from my side, it’s from their side. In the last three years he always says he will fight me next but in this time we’ve done unification fights against Oleksandr Gvozdyk and Joe Smith. We’ve done that, whereas he has just been talking about it.
“We used to be on the national team together as amateurs, I knew him then, but he is younger than me. We haven’t talked for ten years now. He was 75kg (165lbs) back then, too small for me.
“We were never friends.”
But Beterbiev also insists that, while Bivol is the ultimate goal, his immediate focus is fixed upon the challenge awaiting him in the ring in London later this month.
“What motivates me is that first of all I have three belts and I need to defend them – I can’t just give them away,” he said.
“If someone wants these belts they need to fight. I’ll try to be 100% ready and we will fight them to see who is better. What motivates me right now is having these belts and needing to defend them – that’s it.”
Another win, and particularly another devastating knockout against an opponent of Anthony Yarde’s caliber, will certainly serve to enhance Beterbiev’s already glowing reputation.
But one suspects that until he steps into a ring with Dmitry Bivol, he won't be truly satisfied with his collection of belts.