Promoter Bob Arum has no qualms ranking Artur Beterbiev ahead of a slew of historical greats in the light heavyweight division, especially after his latest performance.
Beterbiev, the Montreal-based Russian bruiser, is coming off a punishing second-round stoppage of Long Island's Joe Smith Jr. to unify the WBC, IBF, and WBO 175-pound belts last Saturday at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City.
The 90-year-old Arum, who started promoting in the 1960s, could not help but gush about his sterling charge after the win, and even went so far as to put him ahead of some of the greatest fighters in the 175-pound division, such as Bob Foster and Matthew Saad Muhammad.
“I think he may be the best ever,” Arum told BoxingScene.com. “And I go back to Bob Foster, John Conteh, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Eddie Gregory (Mustafa Muhammad). I’ve never seen a light heavyweight like him.”
The win leaves Beterbiev one belt away from becoming the division’s undisputed champion. Fellow Russian Dmitry Bivol owns the WBA belt. Bivol successfully defended it last month with a unanimous decision over Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas.
A fight between Beterbiev and Bivol, however, is unlikely in the short term, given that Bivol is affiliated with Matchroom Boxing, the England-based promotional entity that has an exclusive content deal with DAZN, the streaming platform. Arum indicated in no uncertain terms that he would only entertain a Beterbiev-Bivol match-up if the fight took place on ESPN, the network with which Arum’s Top Rank has an exclusive partnership.
Arum marveled at Beterbiev, 37, and expressed surprise at Smith’s decision to come out of his corner swinging for the fences. Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs) dropped Smith (28-4, 22 KOs) three times before referee Harvey Dock halted the bout in the second round.
“I didn’t think Smith would do that kind of fight,” Arum said. “But everybody said that Beterbiev starts slow, so he went and made it a fight early. He thought that was his best chance, but you can’t do that without a guy like Beterbiev, who just throws nuclear bombs."