By Francisco Salazar

IBF light heavyweight titleholder Artur Beterbiev is 34 years of age and he is not getting any younger. 

He holds a world title belt in a very competitive division, and the likely scenario in his situation would be to unify against any of the three belt holders in the division this year.

According to Beterbiev, that is the plan, but he must get by Radivoje Kalajdzic tonight at the Stockton Arena in Stockton, California. The 12-round bout will headline a Top Rank card and will air live on ESPN (10 p.m. ET/ 7:00 p.m. PT).

Beterbiev (13-0, 13 knockouts), who is originally from Russia and now resides in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, knocked out Callum Johnson in his last bout on Oct. 6 in Chicago. It was his first fight since November of 2017, when he won the vacant IBF title by knocking out Enrico Koelling in Fresno, California.

Part of Beterbiev’s lack of activity over the last several months was due in part to legal issues with promoter Yvon Michel, but they were settled earlier this year.

Now he faces a stern challenge in Kalajdzic (24-1, 17 KOs), who is originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina and now resides in Saint Petersburg, Florida. The 27-year-old Kalajdzic has won his last three fights since his controversial split-decision loss to Marcus Browne in April of 2016. 

 Kalajdzic will be a voluntary defense for Beterbiev as he is ranked number 13 by the IBF.

Tonight’s fight against Kalajdzic is no easy fight for Beterbiev, despite possessing impressive punching power. And could the recent inactivity play a role as a disadvantage for Beterbiev?

It would be interesting to see how tonight’s fight plays out, but Beterbiev believes is more anxious to face the other world titleholders in the division. Beterbiev, who is co-managed by Philippe Lepage, would like to unify against either WBC titleholder Oleksandr Gvozdyk, WBA titleholder Dmitry Bivol or WBO titleholder Sergey Kovalev.

“Yes, absolutely (I would like to unify),” Beterbiev told Boxingscene Thursday night. “I first need to perform well Saturday night. Kovalev said he wanted to fight me, we will soon find out if it’s true. Otherwise I’ll take whoever is ready, Gvozdyk or Bivol. It doesn’t really matter.”

A possible unification fight against any of the those fighters would have to take place later this year or no later than 2020.

Beterbiev and Gvozdyk are promoted by Top Rank, so that is the likely scenario. Top Rank have shared fight cards or have put together fights with Main Events, which promotes Kovalev and co-promotes Bivol. 

Beterbiev just wants to prove who is the best light heavyweight in boxing is.

“My goal is to be the best, but you could only prove this in the ring.”

Francisco A. Salazar has written for since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing