Artur Beterbiev does not agree with the official verdict regarding the largest facial gash he has ever sustained inside a boxing ring.
The unified IBF and WBC light heavyweight titleholder from Russia extended his unbeaten record to 17 wins – all inside the distance – this past Saturday by stopping mandatory challenger Marcus Browne in the ninth round at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Beterbiev pummeled the southpaw from New York City, dropping him twice, in another hair-raising performance that should give his divisional cohorts some pause. But his win did not come without encountering some considerable hindrance.
In the fourth round, Beterbiev and Browne clashed heads, immediately opening up cuts on both fighters’ faces. Beterbiev was worse for the wear, with a deep laceration rippling down the middle of his forehead. The cut would mire Beterbiev’s face in a mask of blood for the remainder of the fight. Referee Michael Griffin deemed the headbutt unintentional. Generally speaking, it is not uncommon for unintentional headbutts to occur between a southpaw and orthodox fighter.
Postfight, Beterbiev, who trains out of Montreal, did not mince words as it related to Griffin’s assessment regarding the clash.
“I am convinced that it was intentional. 1000%,” Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) told Mathieu Boulay of Le Journal de Montreal. “I don’t like it when boxers do things like that.
“I found that unsportsmanlike and dirty. Certain southpaws are good boxers and have beautiful skills, but not [Browne].”
Aside from the gruesome nature of the cut, the headbutt was significant for the reason that it almost led the ring doctor to stopping the fight. At the beginning of the fifth round, the doctor was overheard on the broadcast saying, “One more round.” Had the doctor followed up on this assertion, the fight – at the end of the fifth round – would have ended in a majority decision for Browne (24-2, 16 KOs); two of the judges had Browne leading at that point.
Beterbiev said the cut affected his thinking throughout the fight.
“During rounds five and six, I felt that Browne was beginning to slow down, but I wasn’t sure,” Beterbiev said. “I thought that that could be a tactic. On the other hand, I was mainly preoccupied with my cut and the fact that the fight could be stopped.”
Browne (24-2, 16 KOs), admittedly, has a history of being involved in fight-altering headbutts, although none of them have ever been categorized as anything but accidental. Most famously, a headbutt clash during his 2019 bout against Badou Jack, left Jack with a hellacious gash over his forehead, similar to the one incurred by Beterbiev. That same year, a headbutt during his bout against Jean Pascal led to their fight being stopped in the eighth round; Pascal won a technical decision.
Beterbiev’s cutman, Luc Vincent Ouellet, attested to the impossible task of trying to quell the open wound on his charge.
“I did my best to avoid the referee Michael Griffin or the doctor from stopping the fight,” Ouellet said. “I lost my biggest Q-tips working the cut. That doesn’t happen often. There was nothing else to do. There was no miracle solution.”