Based on what Bob Arum has seen from Artur Beterbiev, the destructive Russian’s 91-year-old co-promoter expects him to annihilate Anthony Yarde on Saturday night in London.
If the heavily favored Beterbiev beats Yarde, who is the mandatory challenger for his WBO light heavyweight title, Arum hopes to finally match Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs) against unbeaten WBA champ Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs) in a full title unification fight later this year. Arum emphasized again, though, that the long-awaited Beterbiev-Bivol battle can only become a reality if ESPN is granted the broadcasting rights to their 12-round, 175-pound championship match in the United States and Canada.
Arum’s company, Top Rank Inc., has an exclusive output deal with ESPN, which is available in more than 80 million households in the United States. Beterbiev relocated from Russia to Montreal, one of Canada’s most populous cities, after appearing at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
The 32-year-old Bivol, who still resides in Russia, works with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, one of two promotional companies, along with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, that works exclusively with DAZN. Each of Bivol’s past six fights have been streamed by DAZN, which distributed his career-changing upset of Canelo Alvarez on its pay-per-view platform last May 7 from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
“We’d love to do that fight,” Arum told BoxingScene.com when asked about Beterbiev-Bivol, “but obviously it would have to be on ESPN. We could work out something with DAZN in certain areas, but in the United States and Canada, it would have to be on the ESPN platform. If Hearn is willing to do that, then we’re happy to do the fight any time, any place. We’re just not gonna do it in Russia.”
Beterbiev-Bivol would do huge business in Russia under normal circumstances, but ESPN, DAZN and the four sanctioning organizations Beterbiev and Bivol represent wouldn’t want their fight to take place there as long as Russia’s war with Ukraine continues. Regardless, Arum hopes one of the most meaningful fights that can be made in boxing materializes because it would draw a big audience for boxing to ESPN.
“If it’s on ESPN, there would be a huge audience, maybe two million homes,” Arum said. “And people wouldn’t have to pay extra to watch it, because it wouldn’t be on ESPN+, it would be on ESPN.”
Arum believes Bivol and his team will have to push Hearn to make Beterbiev-Bivol happen next. Hearn has been open about wanting Bivol to defend his WBA belt against another contender Hearn’s company promotes, London’s Joshua Buatsi (16-0, 13 KOs), in his next bout.
“I think if Bivol pushes Hearn or Vadim Kornilov, a good guy who’s [Bivol’s] manager, pushes Hearn, you know, it’ll happen,” Arum said. “If they don’t push Hearn, it won’t happen.”
Meanwhile, Arum anticipates Beterbiev, who turned 38 last Saturday, to keep his perfect knockout record intact against Yarde (23-2, 22 KOs) in a main event ESPN+ will stream in the United States (3:30 p.m. ET). The 31-year-old Yarde, of Ilford, England, has been stopped by former WBO light heavyweight champ Sergey Kovalev (35-4-1, 29 KOs) and lost a 12-round split decision to British rival Lyndon Arthur (21-1, 15 KOs), whom Yarde knocked out in the fourth round of their rematch.
“Beterbiev looks like he’s impregnable,” Arum said. “I’ve been shocked with Beterbiev. Guys can hit him and it doesn’t seem to affect him. He always seems to find a way to knock somebody out. To me, his knockout win against [former WBC champ Oleksandr] Gvozdyk [in October 2019] showed that he is a terrific fighter who is gonna be very, very tough to beat. And he handled Joe Smith like it was a piece of cake [a second-round technical knockout last June 18]. So, Beterbiev is a real talent. I’ve never seen a light heavyweight hit as hard as Beterbiev.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.