Russian light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol is fascinated by the idea of trading punches with Artur Beterbiev.
Bivol, who holds the WBA 175-pound belt, spoke highly of his countryman and fellow titlist Beterbiev, who holds the remaining WBO, WBC, and IBF belts. The two were recently spotted in an informal face-off in Saudi Arabia ahead of the high-profile heavyweight fight between Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou.
A fight for the undisputed 175-pound championship between Bivol and Beterbiev has long been regarded as one of the top matchups in the sport, but business politics have complicated efforts to bring the two fighters into the ring. Bivol is backed by Matchroom, which seldom does business with Top Rank, the promoter of Beterbiev. Both Matchroom and Top Rank, moreover, have their own exclusive broadcasting deals: Matchroom with DAZN, and Top Rank with ESPN.
Adding to the existing difficulties is the WBC’s stance toward Russian fighters. The sanctioning body has refused to allow any Russian fighters to fight for its titles. WBC head Mauricio Sulaiman, however, has exempted Beterbiev from his organization’s decree, on the basis that Beterbiev has Canadian citizenship; Beterbiev has lived and trained in Montreal for over a decade.
Despite the hurdles, Bivol, in a recent interview, sounded an enthusiastic note about a fight with Beterbiev, saying he is eager to see how his skills stack up against the reputed mauler.
“The fight against Beterbiev is a great fight, to be honest,” Bivol told FightHubTV. “For me, as an athlete, I see him as a great fighter. He’s a very big puncher. He’s the biggest puncher in boxing today. Not only in the light heavyweight class. For me it's interesting to check my skills against an opponent like him.”
Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs) is scheduled to defend his belts against mandatory challenger Callum Smith on Jan. 13 in Centre Videotron in Quebec City.
Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs), who last fought one year ago in a win over Gilberto Ramirez, will make a defense against Lyndon Arthur on December 23 as part of big event taking place in Saudi Arabia.
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.