The top handler for Dmitry Bivol has strong belief that a fight with Artur Beterbiev will materialize next summer.
An undisputed light heavyweight title bout between Bivol, the WBA titlist, and Beterbiev, the unified IBF, WBO, WBC champion, is among the most compelling matchups that can be made in boxing, but business politics have largely stymied efforts (if there have been any) to stage that fight.
Bivol, 32, is backed by Matchroom, which has an exclusive content deal with streaming platform DAZN, while Beterbiev, 38, is promoted by Top Rank, which has its own exclusive agreement with ESPN.
Top Rank head Bob Arum has said he would not sign off on that fight unless it took place under their umbrella and broadcasted on ESPN.
Amplifying the stalemate is the WBC’s stance toward Russian fighters; in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the sanctioning body put out a decree that it would refuse to sanction any bout involving a Russian or Belarusian fighter. But the organization has only applied that dictum to Bivol, despite the fact that both Bivol and Beterbiev are Russian. WBC head Mauricio Sulaiman has said Beterbiev is exempt from the draconian edict because of his Canadian citizenship; Beterbiev has lived in Montreal for over a decade.
Despite the disjunction, Vadim Kornilov, the manager for Bivol, is optimistic that both sides can reach an agreement.
In a recent interview, Kornilov said he has received indication from both Matchroom and Top Rank that they would be prepared to make the fight next year, after Ramadan, the holy month of fasting which begins in March and ends in April; Beterbiev is a devout Muslim and has long scheduled his fights around Ramadan.
Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs) was originally supposed to defend his titles against mandatory challenger Callum Smith of England in August but he suffered a jaw infection stemming from a dental operation. Their fight has been rescheduled to Jan. 13 in Quebec City.
“Right now there’s a medical situation,” Kornilov told FightHubTV. “As far as I know Beterbiev had some kind of jaw injury, so that pushes things off. He was supposed to fight in August, now it’s January. It sounds like it’s not a big deal but now we have to fight in December or January.
“As far as I know, some of the conversations I had with Matchroom and Top Rank regarding this, as far as I know, if all this comes together, they’re ready to do it after Ramadan next year. So if he wins, if he beats Callum Smith in January, I think there will be very serious discussions about this fight happening in May, June, or July of next year.”
“It would be perfect timing,” Kornilov added.
Kornilov said he is hopeful that the fight might get picked up by backers in the Middle East, increasingly the capital for high profile prizefights. Just over a week ago, Saudi Arabia hosted the “crossover” heavyweight bout between Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou.
Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs), moreover, has friendly relations with the Middle East. He headlined a card in Abu Dhabi against Gilberto Ramirez last year, in November.
“We’re trying to see if the Saudi Arabians, the UAE, Abu Dhabi—that’s almost our second home after that big fight,” Kornilov said. “We got very close with all the guys in Abu Dhabi. We’re hoping we can come back there. This can be one of the biggest fights in boxing, that would be a great location as well, considering their appetite for big, big fights.”
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.