If you love knockouts, one fighter you should most certainly be watching in 2017 is the Russian standout who fights out of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Artur Beterbiev, 11-0, 11 KO’s. For those familiar with him, he needs no introduction. All of the blood-thirsty boxing ghouls have already received a taste of what he has to offer. If you’re witnessing a Beterbiev fight you might not want to blink as they typically end in quick, dramatic fashion.
Beterbiev didn’t just pop up out of nowhere given that as an amateur he had wins over the likes of Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev and Ismail Sillakh. Not to mention the fact that he’s been in with other amateur standouts in losing efforts to include the current World Boxing Organization (WBO) Cruiserweight, 200 pounds, Champion, Oleksandr “The Cat” Usyk. Regardless of wins and losses, being in the ring with fighters of such caliber only make you better.
Having turned professional at a later age than most, time has been of the essence for Beterbiev. He’s a little over three years into his pro career and has 11 fights. As with other fighters with similar amateur backgrounds, he’s had an emphasis on facing tougher completion in a hasty manner. In his sixth fight, on September 27, 2014, he had a two round demolition of former International Boxing Federation (IBF) Light Heavyweight, 175 pounds, Champion, Tavoris Cloud. Cloud hasn’t fought since.
Two fights later he put a beating on veteran Gabriel Campillo, further proving that thus far in his career there hasn’t been a slither of competition he couldn’t handle. He’s now knocked out everyone he’s faced in his 11 fights with the longest fight having gone seven rounds. At this point. I believe an even higher step-up in competition is warranted.
Regardless of his run thus far, Beterbiev is still relatively unknown to casual fans. There are plenty of fights out there for Beterbiev that would help to establish him as a star in boxing and hopefully they can be made over the course of 2017. If Beterbiev were to fight three times in 2017, the fighters I would like to see him face are as follows, in order.
1. Sullivan Barrera, 18-1, 13 KO’s: Barrera is a skilled Cuban fighter. Many people didn’t know of him until his March 3, 2016, fight with current Light Heavyweight kingpin, Andre “S.O.G.” Ward. This was billed as a tuneup for Ward as he moved up to 175 pounds from Super Middleweight. While Ward did win the fight via decision, dominating some rounds, Barrera had a formidable showing. If anything, he proved that he could participate at the most elite level. Just recently, Barrera won via fascinating TKO over Ukrainian fighter Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in the 7th round in a fight Shabranskyy was expected to win. This should let people know that Barrera is more than a stepping stone.
2. Nathan Cleverly, 30-3, 16 KO’s: Cleverly is a fighter who has been in with a slew of talented light heavyweights. He’s won some and lost some, yet generally had a very good showing in the majority of his fights. He’s beat and lost to the right level of competition to assure that he’d be a good test for Beterbiev. Cleverly possesses good boxing skills and a decent chin. It would be interesting to see how he handles Beterbiev’s power. Cleverly recently won the World Boxing Association (WBA) regular title and the fight would have heavy interest throughout the United Kingdom.
3. Joe Smith, JR., 23-1, 19 KO’s: “The Irish Bomber” most recently defeated the great Bernard Hopkins in dramatic fashion via TKO on December 10, 2016, in what was the 51 year old future hall of famer’s last fight. Smith also beat the highly durable Andrzej Fonfara via 1st round TKO in the fight prior. Smith could essentially match Beterbiev power for power in what would surely be a fight full of power-punching prowess. If I were a betting man I would surely put money on that fight not going the full 12 rounds. This fight would be more for the fans than anything, but proper matchups usually catapult careers and one of them would leave with a greater edge than before the fight.
In boxing, momentum is key to building your career and establishing a solid fan base. Thus far, Beterbiev has done a good job of staying active but we would now like to see him in those fights that truly define his legacy. To that point, 2017 is the year he can make a huge splash with the Light Heavyweight division heating back up with a multitude of talent. If he plays his cards right, he could be name on the lips of fans heading into 2018 and potentially set up lucrative fights with the likes of Andre Ward, Sergey Kovalev, and even Adonis Stevenson. In either scenario, the fans and boxing public wins.Contact the Feature Writers