NEW YORK – Artur Beterbiev probably will make a mandated defense of his newly obtained WBO light heavyweight title in his next fight.
Anthony Yarde is not the opponent, however, that the Russian knockout artist wants to fight now that he holds three of boxing’s four recognized 175-pound championships. Beterbiev hopes Dmitry Bivol is serious about a full unification bout, because Beterbiev doesn’t see any legitimate impediment that should prevent the undefeated champions from fighting next.
Beterbiev questioned in the immediate aftermath of his second-round destruction of Joe Smith Jr. on Saturday night whether Bivol truly wants to fight him.
“I hope because they always talk about they want to fight,” Beterbiev told a group of reporters after defeating Smith. “OK, let’s do it. He always [says], ‘I want the fight. I want the fight.’ I don’t know what’s next. … If he wants to fight, OK, let’s do it. Joe Smith wanted to fight. We did it.”
Montreal’s Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs) retained his IBF and WBC titles and won the WBO belt when he stopped Smith (28-4, 22 KOs), who was knocked down three times in a main event ESPN televised from Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater. His fight against England’s Yarde (22-2, 21 KOs), the WBO’s number one contender, could take place as soon as October 29 if negotiations lead to a deal.
Bivol (20-0, 11 KOs), the WBA champion, is free to fight whoever he wants now that Canelo Alvarez has decided to fight Gennadiy Golovkin next, not Bivol. Russia’s Bivol upset Mexico’s Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs) by unanimous decision May 7 in Las Vegas, but Alvarez declined his contractual right to an immediate rematch in favor of facing Golovkin (42-1-1, 37 KOs) a third time September 17 at a venue to be determined.
Beterbiev has only seen highlights of Bivol’s victory over Alvarez, thus he declined to comment on Bivol’s performance. He wouldn’t predict how his own fight with Bivol would unfold, either.
“We’re gonna see,” Beterbiev said. “I mean, it’s boxing, you know? I can’t predict something about [the] future.”
Marc Ramsey, Beterbiev’s head trainer, obviously likes his fighter’s chances versus Bivol, but he, too, has a lot of respect for the unbeaten WBA champion.
“He was a good amateur fighter,” Ramsey said. “He’s a good professional. He’s very disciplined. He can apply tactics in a fight very well, also. We have a lot of respect for him, but we want the belt.”
The discipline Bivol displayed against Alvarez, who lost for the first time in 8½ years, impressed Ramsey.
“He did exactly what he had to do,” Ramsey said. “The only way that he can win that fight, he did.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.