By Jake Donovan

Artur Beterbiev has been a knockout every time out since turning pro nearly six years.

To this day, he still can’t explain how it always manages to work out that way.

“It’s not something I plan for, in fact in training we prepare to go (12 rounds) every fight,” Beterbiev (13-0, 13KOs) told ahead of Saturday’s light heavyweight title defense versus Radivoje ‘Hot Rod’ Kalajdzic, airing live on ESPN from the Stockton Arena in Stockton, Calif. “Knockouts are something that has always just come natural to me.”

The unbeaten titlist from Canada showed an alarming power surge even during his amateur days in his native Russia. The 34-year old Beterbiev scored at least one stoppage win in just about every major tournament in which he participated, with the exception of his two Olympic tours in 2008 and 2012.

His run in the 2012 London Olympics marked Betebiev’s final year in the amateurs, which also saw him campaign as a heavyweight (the equivalent of cruiserweight in the pros).

“All of my best results have come at this weight,” notes Beterbiev, whom at nearly 6’0” is a prototypical light heavyweight. “It’s not easy to make weight, but also not hard. It’s just my job to make weight, and doing so without struggle makes me perform better in the ring.”

Since turning pro in June ’13, the lone occasion where scorecards threatened to become a factor was in his vacant title win over Enrico Kölling. Their Nov. ’17 bout—which also aired live on ESPN—saw Beterbiev fight beyond the 7th round for just the first time in his career—and beyond four rounds for only the second time—before closing the show with less than 30 seconds to go in becoming a light heavyweight titlist.

The knockout streak hasn’t come without its scares, as Beterbiev has tasted the canvas twice as a pro. Then-unbeaten Jeff Page Jr. managed to floor the then-rising prospect early before being dusted in two rounds in their Dec. ’14 Showtime-televised affair.

In his most recent bout, the unbeaten knockout artist traded knockdowns with previously unbeaten Callum Johnson before coming up aces in the 4th round of their title fight last October in Chicago, Ill.

In Kalajdzic (24-1, 17KOs), Beterbiev once again gets an opponent who has never previously been stopped. The 27-year old challenger has only been down once before in his career, suffering a 1st round knockdown versus Marcus Browne whom he dropped later in the fight only to suffer a highly questionable split decision defeat.

Even with a sturdy chin, Kalajdzic has also never fought beyond the 8th round at any point in his career. A pair of 1st round knockouts comprise of his return to the ring in 2018 after having previously bowed out of the game two years prior due to a chronic hand injury.

It remains to be seen whether he’s prepared for the step up in competition as well as how he performs once taken in to deep waters. No such concerns exist for the defending champ.

“I put in all of the hard work in the gym so that (fight night) is even easier for me,” Beterbiev insists. “I don’t need to look for the knockout. It comes from hard work and from listening to the instructions given by my team and doing my best to follow them.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox