By Luke Furman
Last weekend in Fresno, Artur Beterbiev (12-0, 12 KOs) claimed the vacant IBF light heavyweight title with a twelfth round stoppage of Enrico Koelling of Germany.
The belt became vacant after Andre Ward announced his retirement from the sport a few months ago. Now Beterbiev is ready to pick up the ball and wants to unify the entire 175-pound weight class.
"I am ready to face anyone," confirmed Beterbiev to the Montreal Journal. "If we're heading to a unification, I have no preference between Bivol Dmitry, Sergey Kovalev or Adonis Stevenson. My goal is to unify all the titles."
There is old beef with Kovalev that needs settling.
The two fighters collided twice in the amateurs in the Russian boxing system.
Beterbiev claimed victory in both bouts, but Kovalev claims he was robbed in both fights by corrupt judges.
"I will not go into a verbal war in the public square with him to get his attention," said Beterbiev. "He talks a lot, but this isn't my style. I have no hatred towards him. I respect him as an athlete for what he has done, but I can't evaluate him as a person."
Their fight could move a step closer next Saturday night in New York, when Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) fights Vyacheslav Shabranskyy for the vacant WBO light heavyweight title.
A Kovalev victory would set the stage for a unification. Kovalev is heavily favored to win the fight.
However, Beterbiev's adviser Al Haymon and Kovalev's promoter Kathy Duva have rarely done business together, especially not since the fiasco in trying to make a fight between Kovalev and current WBC champion Adonis Stevenson.
"I wonder if Haymon would be a problem," admitted Duva to 98.5 Sports. "He certainly did everything four years to prevent the fight between Sergey and Stevenson. But I'm always open to negotiate a fair deal."
"[Kovalev] told me yesterday that he would love to finally fight Artur. And he can't wait to do. We're hoping to reach an agreement. In the meantime, he must of course do the job on November 25 and get his hands on the WBO belt."
Luke Furman covers boxing for bokser.org