Bob Arum hopes those that oppose Canelo Alvarez’s fight against Dmitry Bivol because Bivol resides in Russia can differentiate between Bivol and the Russian-born light heavyweight champion his company co-promotes.

Arum and his fellow co-promoters for Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr. are in the process of finalizing a deal for their light heavyweight title unification fight to take place June 18 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York. The 90-year-old Arum made it clear during an interview with that he feels any public opposition to Beterbiev participating in their 12-round, 175-pound championship match would be completely misguided.

“That’s absurd because Beterbiev is a legal resident of Canada,” Arum said. “He has lived there for many years. He has a Canadian passport. And he’s got nothing to do with Russia. It’s different from Bivol, who lives in Russia. Beterbiev is Canadian.”

Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) owns the IBF and WBC light heavyweight titles. Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) is the WBO champion.

The IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO issued a joint statement at the onset of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that indicated none of those four governing organizations would sanction fights on Russian soil at least until the war in Ukraine ends. The WBA went as far as to temporarily remove all Russian fighters from its rankings.

Bivol (19-0, 11 KOs), who was born in Kyrgyzstan, moved to Russia as a child. He owns the WBA light heavyweight title, but the WBA hasn’t placed any restrictions on its champions who have ties to Russia.

Matchroom Boxing, the promoter of the Alvarez-Bivol event, and DAZN, which will distribute it on pay-per-view, have faced some criticism for Bivol’s participation in this fight. Bivol benignly explained his stance on the war in Ukraine and expressed sympathy for those affected on both sides of the conflict at a press conference for the Alvarez fight March 2 in San Diego.

Others have argued that punishing Russian fighters for a war they might not support seems unfair.

“That’s not my business,” Arum said. “My point is about Beterbiev, not Bivol.”

Beterbiev, 37, moved to Montreal, where he has long resided and trained, after competing at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Smith, 32, hails from Mastic, New York, on Long Island.

“Beterbiev comes from Chechnya,” Arum said in reference to what is officially known as The Chechen Republic. “The point is he has been a resident in good standing, with the equivalent of a green card, in Canada and has a Canadian passport. Not a Russian passport, a Canadian passport. And obviously he didn’t do that because of this [war]. That’s the passport he has had and used for at least the last five years. There comes a time when he becomes, in effect, part of another country and not the country of his birth.”

Beterbiev fought almost exclusively in Canada and later in the United States from the time he made his pro debut in June 2013.

He fought on Russian soil once as a professional, when he defended his IBF and WBC belts against another Russian-born boxer, Adam Deines, who is resident of Germany. Beterbiev stopped Deines (20-2-1, 11 KOs) in the 10th round of their March 2021 fight at Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.