By Keith Idec
Representatives for Enrico Koelling have informed the IBF that he is willing to fight Artur Beterbiev for the right to become the mandatory challenger for IBF light heavyweight champion Andre Ward.
The IBF was on the verge Thursday of installing Beterbiev as the No. 1 contender for Ward’s title, but Koelling met the New Jersey-based sanctioning organization’s deadline for finding a contender ranked in its top 10 at 175 pounds who was willing to battle Beterbiev for the top spot. Beterbiev (11-0, 11 KOs) is ranked No. 2 by the IBF, three spots ahead of the fifth-ranked Koelling (23-1, 6 KOs).
The 32-year-old Russian knockout artist has been seeking an opponent since a fight against Cuban contender Sullivan Barrera (18-1, 13 KOs) fell apart earlier this month over a very public contractual battle between Barrera and Yvon Michel, Beterbiev’s promoter. The date and location for the Beterbiev-Koelling fight have yet to be determined.
“We are very pleased to have found an opponent to face Artur,” Michel said. “I know the people of Sauerland Event [Koelling’s promoter] and I are eager to begin discussions to make this fight.”
The 27-year-old Koelling represented Germany at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. As a pro, the unproven Koelling has won seven straight fights since suffering a 12-round, unanimous-decision defeat to Italy’s Mirco Ricci (17-3, 5 KOs) in February 2015.
Michel won an IBF purse bid February 2 for the right to promote the Beterbiev-Barrera bout.
It was tentatively scheduled for April 21 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but Barrera withdrew from the bout two weeks ago because he said he had yet to receive a contract for the fight. Michel vehemently disputed that claim and countered that Barrera never actually intended to participate in the fight.
Now, however, the winner between Beterbiev and Koelling will become Ward’s mandatory challenger. Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) is expected to defend his IBF 175-pound title, along with his WBA and WBO championships, in a rematch against former champion Sergey Kovalev (30-1-1, 26 KOs) on June 17 at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.