Artur Beterbiev couldn’t help taking a verbal jab at Dmitry Bivol in a recent face-to-face encounter.
The Russian light heavyweight champions took part in a jovial, mock face-off during fight week proceedings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, ahead of the high profile heavyweight contest on Saturday between WBC titlist Tyson Fury and former UFC champion Francis Ngannou.
Boxing fans have long clamored for an undisputed match-up between Beterbiev, who owns the WBO, WBA, and IBF light heavyweight titles, and Bivol, who holds the WBA strap, but that match-up has been stymied by the business politics of boxing.
After their face-off, Beterbiev was asked why he and Bivol have thus far failed to get in the ring, and Beterbiev suggested the query be directed to his compatriot.
“I don’t know. He talk about fight but he never fight,” Beterbiev quipped. “Ask him. Ask him.”
Beterbiev then walked away while Bivol appeared to wear a sheepish grin.
Bivol and Beterbiev are backed by rival promotional outfits, which have complicated efforts to make that fight. Bivol is aligned with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom, which exclusively showcases its fighter on the streaming platform DAZN, and Beterbiev is promoted by Top Rank, which has its own exclusive deal with ESPN.
Bob Arum, the head of Top Rank, once insisted that he would never allow Beterbiev to fight on a rival network.
Also complicating their fight is a recent verdict by the World Boxing Council, whose head, Mauricio Sulaiman, declared that they would not sign off on a full unification bout if Bivol is involved.
Last year, in response to Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, the WBC stated that it would refuse to sanction fights in Russia or Belarus and rank any Russian or Belarusian fighter for the duration of the conflict. Sulaiman, curiously enough, has exempted Beterbiev from the decree because Beterbiev has Canadian citizenship and had lived in that country for more than a decade; Beterbiev lives and trains in Montreal.
Beterbiev has a scheduled defense against Callum Smith on Jan. 13 in Quebec City.
Bivol, who has not fought for nearly a year, currently does not have an announced fight.
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.