Artur Beterbiev has endured another disruption in attempting to defend his World light heavyweight championship.
The unbeaten knockout artist and lineal 175-pound king from Montreal by way of Khasavyurt, Russia has tested positive for COVID-19, which has forced a second postponement in his planned title defense versus Adam Deines (19-1-1, 10KOs). Their bout was due to take place January 30, live on an ESPN platform from VTB Arena in Moscow.
“Unfortunately, I got coronavirus,” Beterbiev announced through his verified social media accounts on Monday. “Therefore, my fight with Adam Deines scheduled for January 30 is postponed for a later date.”
A confirming press release from promoter Top Rank noted that plans to reschedule the bout remain a topic of conversation as this goes to publish.
The unfortunate development is yet the latest hurdle standing in the way of Betetbiev (15-0, 15KOs) making his way back to the ring. The 2008 Olympian and reigning light heavyweight king has not fought since unseating previously unbeaten champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk via 10th round knockout last October in Philadelphia. Beterbiev left the fight with the WBC and IBF titles in tow and recognition as the true light heavyweight champion.
A mandatory title defense was ordered by the IBF versus top-rated Meng Fanglong, with the fight going to purse bid and promotional rights won by Rejoy Group. Initial plans called for the bout to take place in China, only for Rejoy Group to default on the bid, which landed the fight back in the hands of Top Rank who set aside a March 28 date in Quebec City for the event.
Those plans were scuttled by the initial wave of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with the bout relocated to September 25 in Moscow. Fanlong’s inability to accept the fight due to travel restrictions instead paved the way for Deines to step in and accept the challenge.
Deines dropped a 12-round decision to Fanlong in their title eliminator last June but has won two straight since then in moving up the IBF rankings. With his entering the picture came a new fight and date, with the revised mandatory title defense scheduled for October 23 in Moscow. Those plans were scrapped after Beterbiev suffered a rib injury during training camp, postponing the fight to next January following tried and failed efforts to insert the fight in December.
Beterbiev claimed the IBF belt in a 12th round stoppage win over Enrico Koelling in November 2017. Injuries and issues with past promoters have slowed his career progress to a crawl, making just three successful defenses in more than three years.
Hopes of a fresh start in 2021 are, for the moment, on hold.
“I will try to recover as soon as possible and return to training,” stated Beterbiev. “I hope for your understanding and support.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox