Artur Beterbiev finally expressed some enthusiasm for one of the most intriguing matchups in boxing.
The WBC, WBO, and IBF light heavyweight champion Russia has usually responded to queries about fighting countryman Dmitry Bivol, the WBA titlist, for the undisputed championship with brusque indifference.
But in a recent interview, Beterbiev dispensed with his usual air of unconcern and offered a bluntly affirmative response.
“Of course, of course I want this fight,” Beterbiev said of Bivol in an interview with iFL TV. “I want this fight.”
When asked if he had an opinion on the possibility that Bivol will take part in a rematch with Canelo Alvarez later this year, Beterbiev resorted to usual form, saying, “I’m not thinking about it.”
Beterbiev, who lives and trains in Montreal, is gearing up to defend his three light heavyweight belts against mandatory British challenger Anthony Yarde Jan. 28 at Wembley Arena in London. Should Beterbiev be victorious, there will likely be even more public pressure to make a fight between him and Bivol.
There are sizable promotional obstacles at play, however, preventing that matchup from being realized. Bivol is promoted by Matchroom, while Beterbiev is backed by Top Rank; Matchroom and Top Rank are rivals and rarely do business together. Moreover, and most crucially, both companies have their own network deals; Matchroom with the streaming platform DAZN, Top Rank with ESPN. Indeed, Top Rank head Bob Arum has publicly insisted that he will never allow a scenario to take place in which Beterbiev would fight under a Matchroom-promoted, DAZN-streamed event.
Even if Yarde were to defeat Beterbiev to become the unified champion, the same political issues would exist, as Yarde’s promoter Frank Warren of Queensberry (a Top Rank partner) is a bitter rival of Hearn.
Bivol, for his part, has been openly calling for the undisputed title fight, and has made it clear that he prefers that opportunity much more than a rematch with Alvarez. Bivol defeated the Mexican superstar on points last spring in a light heavyweight title bout.
More recently, Bivol expressed interest in possibly fighting Alvarez at 168 for a chance to become an undisputed champion in a different weight class.