Fanlong Meng’s first career title fight could come in front a partisan crowd.
With a bid of $1.9 million, Roc Nation Sports—on behalf of Rejoy Group /Longjoy Sports in China—secured promotional rights to Meng’s mandatory challenge of unbeaten World light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev through a purse bid hearing held Monday at International Boxing Federation (IBF) headquarters in Springfield, New Jersey. News
The hefty winning bid far exceeded the generous offer of $1.315 million submitted by Top Rank Inc., Beterbiev’s promoter and the next highest bidder.
In accordance with IBF-standard purse splits for mandatory title fights, Beterbiev will be entitled to 65%—$1.235 million—of the winning bid, with the remaining 35% ($665,000) going to Meng as the challenger.
Representatives from both sides confirmed the news to BoxingScene.com, with the result first mentioned on social media by The Athletic’s Mike Coppinger.
Heavy rumors have the bout taking place in Meng’s native China in early spring, although there are necessary steps to be taken in order to secure the location. As per the purse bid requirements, a non-refundable deposit of 10% of the final amount must be submitted to the IBF, along with another 10% payment to be submitted by no later than five (5) business days following the hearing.
The mandatory title fight was ordered in November, with both sides given a 30-day free negotiation period to come to terms and avoid a purse bid hearing. The deadline came and went without a deal in place, prompting the IBF to formally order the purse bid on December 18—though still leaving a window of opportunity for the two sides to work out a deal at the 11th hour.
Beterbiev (15-0, 15KOs) will attempt the fourth overall defense of his IBF title, and first as a unified titlist and lineal 175-pound champion—the latter two achieved in a 10th round stoppage of previously unbeaten World Boxing Council (WBC) titlist and World champ Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-1, 14KOs) this past October.
The hope on the Top Rank side was to stage this defense in Canada, to where Beterbiev relocated upon turning pro in 2013, one year after the second of two Olympic tours for his native Russia at the amateur heavyweight limit in 2012 London.
Those same games saw Meng (16-0, 10KOs) compete in the light heavyweight division for his native China, where his handlers hope to bring this particular fight.
Meng dropped a decision to eventual Bronze medalist Yamaguchi Falcao in the 2012 London Olympics, though not turning pro for another three years. It’s been a rapid race to the top for the 31-year old southpaw, who worked his way to the mandatory position by his 15th pro fight following a 12-round win over fellow unbeaten contender Adam Deines this past June in Macao.
The title eliminator took place as part of the annual IBF convention, with the promise of a title fight taking place no later than the 1st quarter of 2020. With the patience of allowing Betetbiev an interim bout now comes the opportunity to challenge for two major titles.
Beterbiev won the IBF title in a 12th round knockout of Enrico Koelling in Nov. 2017, marking the only time in his pro career in which he’s been taking that far in a prizefight. Wedged in between his two title-claiming wins were knockout victories over Callum Johnson and Radivoje Kalajdzic, the latter serving as an ESPN-televised headliner this past May five months prior to laying claim as the best light heavyweight on the planet following his stoppage win over Gvozdyk in October, also on ESPN.
Neither a televised platform nor precise location has yet been specified. The financial backing for Roc Nation’s winning bid suggests a trip to China, with the fight to take place in early spring assuming all purse bid requirements are met within the next five business days.
Rumors have swirled of Beterbiev—a devout Muslim—opposed to fighting in China in protest of its government’s accused ethnic cleansing of Uighur Muslims, roughly one million of whom are currently being held in mass detention in the Xinjiang province.
Efforts to reach Beterbiev’s team for clarification went unreturned as this goes to publish.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox