If Artur Beterbiev beats Anthony Yarde on Saturday night, the unbeaten IBF/WBC/WBO light heavyweight champion wants his chance to become his division’s fully unified champion in his following fight.
The Russian-born knockout artist isn’t convinced Dmitry Bivol feels the same way. The 38-year-old Beterbiev lambasted Bivol for continuously talking about fighting him, yet never demonstrating a willingness to turn their high-stakes showdown into a reality.
“Bivol just says he wants to fight me,” Beterbiev told BoxingScene.com. “He never goes. Like Joe Smith and Gvozdyk, they said they want the fight and they come to fight, you know? But Bivol just says he wants to fight, wants to fight, and that’s it. But you can’t say like for 10 years the same thing, but not fight.”
Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs) stopped Ukraine’s Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-1, 14 KOs) in the 10th round of their title unification fight in October 2019 to add the WBC championship to his IBF belt. Three fights later, the Quebec-based Beterbiev tore through Long Island’s Joe Smith Jr. (28-4, 22 KOs) to win the WBO belt by second-round technical knockout last June 18 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York.
Beating Bivol likely would be a much tougher task for the destructive Beterbiev, but business complications have in part prevented boxing fans from identifying boxing’s best light heavyweight. Whereas Beterbiev is co-promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. and Group Yvon Michel and ESPN televises or streams his fights, the 32-year-old Bivol is aligned with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing and DAZN.
Arum has informed BoxingScene.com and other outlets that Beterbiev-Bivol can only be made if ESPN broadcasts their fight.
Another potential problem is that Russia’s Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs) hopes to land a rematch with Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs) later this year. Bivol upset the four-division champion by unanimous decision in their 12-round, 175-pound championship match May 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Hearn hopes Bivol will defend his WBA title against another contender he promotes, England’s Joshua Buatsi (16-0, 13 KOs), in his next fight. If a Bivol-Buatsi bout is put together, it would, best-case scenario, prolong the wait for Beterbiev-Bivol.
“For the last few years, he says he wants to fight, wants to fight,” Beterbiev said. “But in this period, I get two more belts from other world champions. They came to fight, but him, I don’t know. I don’t know what he’s thinking about.”
Becoming boxing’s undisputed 175-pound champion is one of Beterbiev’s goals, but he isn’t consumed with boxing Bivol.
“It’s really important for me,” Beterbiev said. “But if it’s not gonna happen, I’m not crying.”
Regardless, the heavily favored Beterbiev must get by England’s Yarde (23-2, 22 KOs), the mandatory challenger for his WBO title, at OVO Arena Wembley in London. Most handicappers have established Beterbiev as at least a 9-1 favorite versus Yarde in a 12-round main event BT Sport will televise in the United Kingdom and Ireland and ESPN+ will stream in the United States.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.
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