The most obvious evidence of Artur Beterbiev being beatable occurred a year ago in Chicago.
Callum Johnson, knocked down by Beterbiev in the first round of their fight for Beterbiev’s IBF light heavyweight title, dropped the rugged Russian knockout artist in the second round. England’s Johnson landed a left hook that stunned Beterbiev, but the champion managed to get up and survived the most problematic moment of his six-year pro career.
Beterbiev eventually recovered, regained control of the action and knocked out Johnson in the fourth round of their fascinating firefight in October 2018 at DePaul University’s Wintrust Arena.
Oleksandr Gvozdyk is well aware of the vulnerability Beterbiev exhibited that night. The WBC light heavyweight champion just hasn’t read too much into it while preparing for their 12-round, 175-pound title unification fight Friday night in Philadelphia.
“It’s boxing,” Gvozdyk told BoxingScene.com. “Anything can happen. He was a little bit careless. I’m not expecting that version of him with me. And maybe he a little bit underestimated the guy. He got him in trouble and then he tried to finish him, but then he was counter-punched. It’s boxing. Things like that happen. And we are both light heavyweights, so you know, like each punch can finish the fight. So, I wasn’t really impressed by that. It just happened.”
Beterbiev landed several hard punches before Johnson cracked him with a quick, flush left hook that dropped Beterbiev at 1:24 of the second round. A surprised Beterbiev got up and managed to fend off Johnson for the remainder of the second round.
Beterbiev and Johnson (18-1, 13 KOs) each landed power shots in the third round, but both boxers respected his opponent’s power because each fighter had scored a knockdown before that third round started.
Beterbiev floored Johnson for the second time in the fight with 37 seconds to go in the fourth round, after landing two right hands, one to Johnson’s jaw and another to the side of his head. A staggered Johnson tried to get up from his gloves and knees, but he didn’t beat referee Celestino Ruiz’s count before it reached 10 at 2:36 of the fourth round.
The 34-year-old Beterbiev has knocked out all of his 14 pro opponents, but Ukraine’s Gvozdyk (17-0, 14 KOs) still is a slight favorite against him. ESPN will televise their fight as the main event of a doubleheader scheduled to begin at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT from Temple University’s Liacouras Center.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.