Andre Ward did not come away feeling overawed by light heavyweight powerhouse Artur Beterbiev’s latest performance inside the ring.

Beterbiev, the IBF and WBC 175-pound titlist, dropped mandatory challenger Marcus Browne twice en route to stopping him in the ninth round at the Bell Centre in Montreal. After the second knockdown, Browne declined to get back on his feet, as he waited for referee Michael Griffin to finish administering the count.

As dominant as the second half of the fight played out for the Russian national, Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) was in a bit of unknown territory for most of the fight after a clash of heads – deemed inadvertent – during the fourth round left him with a gaping cut in the middle of his forehead that never stopped bleeding.

In the early portion of the fight, Ward, the former two-time champion and current ESPN analyst, noted on his Twitter account that “Beterbiev looks very beatable tonight,” in reference to Browne’s success at keeping Beterbiev at bay. Indeed, the southpaw Browne fought intelligently in the early going, working behind his jab and tagging Beterbiev to the body. Meanwhile, the comparatively slower Beterbiev had trouble trying to track down Browne. The judges agreed as well: Had the fight been stopped after the fifth round due to Beterbiev’s cut Browne would have been declared the winner on points.

But Browne (24-2, 16 KOs) would not be able to keep up his game plan for long. By the third round, Beterbiev started to close the distance and land his bruising power punches. Ironically, it was after sustaining the gruesome cut that the 36-year-old Russian started to truly pull away. Ward, however, remained unimpressed, citing either Beterbiev’s age or inactivity.

“I don’t know if it’s his age or the layoffs…but Beterbiev saw a lot of shots that he could not get off tonight,” Ward tweeted after the conclusion of the bout. “You will see more guys trying to fight him now [wink emoji].”

Inactivity, compounded by the effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic, has been a problem for Beterbiev. Before Browne, Beterbiev fought only once, against Adam Deines, since unifying titles against Oleksandr Gvozdyk in 2019.

If, as Ward suggests, there are more guys willing to face Beterbiev after his latest fight, that can only be good news for the unified titleholder. Potential fights include unification bouts against Dmitry Bivol or Joe Smith Jr. There is also the much-discussed possibility of fighting unified super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez.