The Curious Case Of Artur Beterbiev

Artur Beterbiev on Friday put on a display of power punching en route to a 1st round knockout, showcasing what has made him such a potential player in the light heavyweight division. The keyword, there, is “potential.” And sadly, he has fallen into a netherworld from whence his escape is unclear.

Isidro Prieto didn’t have a chance, and wasn’t expected to have one, so Beterbiev dropped him in the firt minute with a clean right between a Prieto salvo, then just when it looked like he was recovering, Beterbiev hit him with a left and right in a clinch and finished him off with a flurry of blows. Prieto, when trying to stand, bent his arm so awkwardly it’s surprising it’s still connected. He was knocked so senseless with punches to his head that his body followed suit.

And this is where Beterbiev is. He rose rapidly, taking on veteran former contender Tavoris Cloud in just his sixth fight (smashed him good), and two fights later took on another veteran former contender in Gabriel Campillo (smashed him good, too). That was the spring of 2015, and the sky looked like the limit. He hasn’t faced anyone nearly as fierce since.

He pines, now, for the winner of the Andre Ward vs Sergey Kovalev rematch. There’s little reason to doubt his sincere interest. The problem is, he’s advised by Al Haymon, and word had it Haymon put the kibosh on Beterbiev vs Kovalev last year. But Ward vs Kovalev II might not happen until the summer of next year, and who knows whether promotional high jinks will get in the way of a Kovalev bout should he win the rematch, and whether Ward, if he loses, will want another Kovalev shot or, if he wins, even care to face Beterbiev.

This is where belt politics figures into matters. Ward now holds three alphabet belts at 175, which means he’ll either be forced to drop one sooner or later or will do so willingly to face whomever he wishes to face. The co-opted jackasses in the boxing media who like to point out every time a good fight is made with some assistance from the belt gang — they tend to ignore all the awful mandated match-ups, let alone how little leverage the alphabet gang truly exerts at moments of truth. And there’s almost no reason for Ward or Kovalev to hold on to the belt that makes them fight a dangerous Beterbiev for a disproportionately small amount of cash.

Anyway, if you’re interested in good boxing matches and creating big events (the same causes the aforementioned co-opted jackasses often espouse), Beterbiev vs the winner of Ward vs Kovalev II only checks one of those boxes. You know what checks ’em both? Beterbiev facing lineal champion and fellow Canadian Adonis Stevenson. Too bad Stevenson has behaved like anything but the true champ, and too bad Stevenson and Beterbiev share a promoter who has shown no interest of matching these two sluggers.

That most likely leaves Beterbiev waiting for someone to drop a belt he’s in line for, which would most likely, at this point, pit him against the likes of Erik Skoglund or Sean Monaghan for a bout in which the winner will be called by various sheep “light heayweight champion.”

Boxing is a goddam mess most of the time.

(Beterbiev, via)

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.