In a business full of formidable tough guys, light heavyweight world titlist Artur Beterbiev could rate very close to the top of the baddest of the baddest list.
The IBF/WBC/WBO 175 lb. champ, who hails from Russia by way of Montreal, is undefeated at 18-0 and holds the distinction of having ended every one of his professional bouts via TKO/KO.
This Saturday at Wembley Arena in the UK, he’ll be defending his belts against home country banger Anthony Yarde in a bout that could serve as the prelude to a chance at full unification against fellow Russian, WBA light heavyweight champ Dmitry Bivol.
Beterbiev is a man of few words and insists that things like knockout strings and future mega-fights don’t matter one bit to him
“I don’t really think about the record,” Beterbiev recently told ESPN.
“If you think about it, your whole mind is on it, so I don’t think about it…I don’t feel pressure for that.
“I don’t know what is behind the knockout run. I think maybe I have a couple secrets which I keep in the boxing gym, but I don’t which is helping me and is the formula.
“I never think about getting the knockout, I always think about what I can do to be a good boxer.
“99% is luck, 1 per cent I have prepared for.”
But, while Beterbiev is mild-mannered and reluctant to sing his own praises, he has proven himself to be a special presence in the ring. As a matter of fact, veteran trainer and former fighter “Iceman” John Scully, who will be helping work Beterbiev’s corner this Saturday, believes that the 38-year-old rates among the very best, ever, in the light heavyweight division.
“Artur is there with any of those guys,” Scully told Yahoo Sports. “Size-wise, certainly punching power-wise and technique-wise, I’d say he’s right in the top echelon as far as boxing skill and all of that type of thing. I think he fights right in there with any of those guys.”
“It’s hard to find a weakness in him,” Scully continued. “He’s beaten the big, aggressive guys like Joe Smith, the slick, fast boxers like Marcus Browne and the technical boxers like [Oleksandr] Gvozdyk. He’s handled every style, pretty much, from what we’ve seen. I would think, just in general terms, you’re not going to outslug him. If there’s any chance to beat him, you’d have to be a guy he couldn’t hit. You’d have to be defensively really superior to beat Artur because you can’t be trading punches with him and not be affected by it.”
The 31-year-old Yarde, however, claims to be not too affected by Beterbiev’s reputation as one of the very best offensive fighters currently in the game with, perhaps, all-time great chops. This will be the hard-hitting Brit’s second try at a world title after being stopped in the eleventh round by then-WBO 175 lb. titlist Sergey Kovelv in a 2019 bout held in Kovalev’s native Russia. And, despite a 2020 split decision loss to Lyndon Arthur (that he avenged via fourth-round KO a year later), Yarde is confident that he’s the man to end Beterbiev’s run.
“If he’s a wrecking ball I’m going to be the wall that breaks the wrecking ball,” Yarde told ESPN.” I don’t fear no human, I’ve been faced by men with guns and knives when I’ve been outnumbered and to me that’s something to get scared of. All that fear stuff is not in me, I’ve shown my character by going out to Russia to fight Sergey Kovalev in 2019, and if it was Beterbiev I would have done the same. Fear doesn’t live in my body, fear is doubt and I don’t doubt myself.”
No matter what, fans will be treated to what should be a thrilling offensive clash between two legitimately heavy-handed bomb throwers this Saturday.
If Beterbiev emerges victorious, an all-Russia light heavyweight unification will hopefully be next on the agenda. While crossover stardom will probably always be out of reach for the stoic and slow-to-speak Beterbiev, the Russian-Canadian has already earned his place as a hardcore fan favorite with a future spot in the Hall of Fame. Everything he accomplishes from this point forward is just bonus.