The king of the light heavyweight division returns to his roots in order to defend his throne.

Artur Beterbiev will make his first career appearance in his native Russia, doing so in a lineal light heavyweight championship defense versus Adam Deines (19-1-1, 10KO). Their bout will take place September 25, on a special Friday afternoon edition of Top Rank Boxing live on ESPN from Moscow, Top Rank formally announced on Tuesday.

The bout will serve as the triumphant ring return of Beterbiev (15-0, 15KOs) since scoring a career-best win in a 10th round knockout of Oleksandr Gvozdyk in their unification bout between unbeaten light heavyweight titlists last October. The win also provided the 35-year old knockout artist with the lineal championship which he will defend for the first time.

On the alphabet front, it’s also the fourth defense of the IBF belt which Beterbiev claimed in a 12th round stoppage of Enrico Koelling in November 2017. This particular occasion was originally supposed to come in an IBF-sanctioned mandatory title defense versus China’s Meng Fanlong (16-0, 10KOs), which was to have taken place March 28 in Quebec City, Canada.

The ongoing coronavirus canceled those plans, with a rescheduled fight date of September 25 placing the event in Ekaterinburg, Russia. The new location provided the first true homecoming for Beterbiev, who hasn’t fought in his birth country since his amateur days as he has since relocated to Montreal, Canada.

It also meant having to secure a new opponent, as COVID travel restrictions prevented Fanlong with proceeding with the fight in present form. As previously reported by senior writer Keith Idec, Fanlong would have been able to travel to Russia, though not able to return to his home country of China or in northern New Jersey where he currently trains.

With that came the approval of the man Fanlong defeated to earn his mandatory position. Deines reentered the mix, having won two straight since dropping a 12-round decision to Fanlong in their light heavyweight title eliminator last June. Deines—a 29-year old Russian now based out of Magdeburg, Germany—has been out of the ring since a 2nd round knockout of sub .500 light heavyweight Yevgenii Makhteienko last September.

Even with the new opponent came another delay, with the event pushed back by four weeks and relocated to Moscow. Still, the location allows for another long-ago ordered light heavyweight fight to take place.

The chief support will pit Maksim Vlasov and Umar Salamov in the second leg of an ongoing four-man light heavyweight tournament as sanctioned by the World Boxing Organization (WBO). The winner will advance to a vacant WBO 175-pound title fight versus Joe Smith Jr., who did his part in a 9th round stoppage of former titlist Eleider Alvarez on August 22 live on ESPN+ from the MGM Grand Conference Room (“The Bubble”) in Las Vegas which has housed all of Top Rank’s stateside events since returning from the pandemic this past June.

The hope was for the August 22 show to have featured both WBO title eliminators, only for travel restrictions to prevent Vlasov (45-3, 26KOs) and Salamov (25-1, 19KOs) from entering the United States. Vlasov—a 33-year old former title challenger from Samara, Russia—remains in his home country, while Salamov—a 26-year old knockout artist from Grozny, Russia now based out of Las Vegas—has been training in Kiev, Ukraine.

“Umar and Max are eager to fight each other, and then go on to face Joe Smith,” Oleg Bogdanov, manager for both Salamov and Vlasov told “It will be an excellent fight when Smith gets to face either Umar or Max.”

While the Salamov-Vlasov winner will be in line for greater glory, Beterbiev can expect—with a win on October 23—to then proceed with his mandatory title defense versus Fanlong for his first fight of 2021.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox