Save Mart Arena, Fresno - For the vacant IBF light heavyweight world title, Artur Beterbiev (12-0, 12 KOs) nearly went the distance, but scored two knockdowns in the twelfth and final round to stop Enrico Koelling (23-2, 6 KOs)
The fight was originally set as a world title eliminator. But it was changed after the belt became vacant, after Andre Ward announced his retirement a few months ago.
Beterbiev is currently in a legal battle with promoter Yvon Michel of GYM in Canada. If he's able to break his promotional contract, Beterbiev is expected to sign with Top Rank.
Beterbiev started off the fight by using his power to push Koelling back. Koelling was being defensive for the most part and not taking many chances against the dangerous puncher.
Koelling was actually landing some good punches in the second round, but because he lacks the proper punching power Beterbiev was able to walk through the shots and prevented Koelling from getting any momentum going. Koelling remained to be competitive in the third, hanging with the big puncher and doing good boxing.
Beterbiev was still controlling the fight in the fourth, with his bigger shots and the more effective punching output. There wasn't much coming back from Koelling to discourage Beterbiev from coming forward and pushing the pace. Koelling was often in a defensive stance, which forced Beterbiev to punch around his gloves.
Beterbiev appeared to be comfortable with just winning the rounds, while Koelling was not doing much in return or taking chances to turn the tide. As Koelling entered the eight round, he became the first boxer to last that long with Beterbiev. The crowd was not happy as the same pace of action continued in the ninth and tenth, with Beterbiev simply outworking a defensive Koelling.
In the eleventh and twelfth rounds, Beterbiev was finally doing a lot of damage and landing heavy shots on Koelling, who was in full retreat. Koelling finally took a knee in the final minute of the twelfth round from the constant damage. He had nothing left and soon went down for a second time in the round, and the contest was stopped by the referee.