Today we introduce another name to our ‘Big Hitters’ series. The features where we analyze some of the biggest punchers to grace the sweet science of boxing. This time we showcase an unbeaten light heavyweight wrecking ball. A man who beat his Ukrainian counterpart upholds a perfect knockout ratio, on his demolition path towards unification – Artur Beterbiev.

In October, Philly witnessed a clash between two of the most assertive, well-schooled, and dangerous professionals the sport has to offer. A smooth moving Ukrainian, coming off the dominant Stevenson victory versus Beterbiev, an aggressive Russian who’d knocked out every opponent so far.

Early on the fight displayed the best of both worlds. A more polished boxer showed his class frustrating his opponent, while the puncher kept his composure making his moments count. However, by the 10th, Beterbiev’s exceptional almost freakish levels of power and stamina shone through. An underappreciated night sure, but nonetheless a vital step towards the popularity he craves and deserves. Upholding his perfect KO ratio and moving towards unification, he now stands as one of the sports most daunting figures.

Growing up in central Dagestan, Artur Beterbiev was introduced to combat sports at around 11 years old. He excelled at wrestling and boxing and by 15 possessing all the essential qualities, he was already fighting at the international level. However, around that time his life was flipped upside down by the loss of his father, a true make or break moment for the young Rusian prospect. Though spurred on by his brother, who would later become be his trainer, he persevered to become Russian champion in 2007, beating Sergey Kovalev. Incredibly, withing another 5 years he’d won a World Championship gold, two European golds, and was a quarterfinalist in the 2012 Olympics. Factors that alongside a glimmering 295-5 amateur record made him simply unmissable as he switched to the well-suited professional game in the summer of 2013.

WATCH – Beterbiev vs Usyk amateur fight, 2011

His initial rampage went just as expected, putting away his first 5 opponents inside four rounds within a year. To finish 2014 he knocked out Canadian world champion Tavoris Cloud in devastating fashion, before also stopping his first unbeaten opponent Jeff Page Jr to see out the year. However with his success, in difficulties following advice, he parted ways with his manager at the time, though the person who offered the advice French Canadian promoter Yvon Michel would eventually worsen Beterbiev’s complications 2 years later.

However despite ongoing proceedings, the 32-year-old was offered a glimmer of hope in late 2017. Hope that came in the form of a vacant IBF world title shot against tough 26-1 German star, Enrico Koelling. From a drawn-out fight came a similar outcome. The Russian’s power, pressure, and resilience made his twelfth fight and US debut a glaring success.

Ten months on, Artur Beterbiev’s career finally began to straighten out. After signing to Top Rank his next big test came in Chicago against undefeated Brit, Callum Johnson. In a fight that was expected to be razor close, the opening rounds lived up to expectation with both fighters exchanging knockdowns. The way Johnson chose to throw single shots, the counterpunching and heavyhandedness of Beterbiev was simply too much.

Last May Artur came up against Kalajdzic, a slick fighter with just 1 split lost on his record to Marcus Browne. Where the Bosnian came to box, landing some slick combinations on the inside in similar fashion to Johnson, Beterbiev’s sneakiness slowly drew him into a firefight. And looking to be on his way out at the end of the third, it was just a matter of time.

By October the Gvozdyk fight was perfect. And so pulling off the most impressive victory of his career, the light heavyweight icon now stands firm as the division’s most prominent figure. The last 3 fights with his career back on track have proven Artur Beterbiev as a special, elite-level talent. We’ve seen his ability to change levels, fight on the inside, and apply unwavering pressure. Also in Wilder-esk fashion, we’ve seen him invite opponents in with short, lazy jabs, followed up by bone-crunching right hands. And whilst he doesn’t have a long list of potential opponents, what he does have much like Usyk, is a pathway to becoming undisputed.

He now prepares for a somewhat anti-climatic mandatory fight against Fanlong Meng of China. So despite a size advantage, there is little to suggest that the unbeaten Chinese fighter will offer much in terms of resistance. Something must be in the water out in Dagestan. Khabib now represents the UFC’s ultimate ground game whereas Beterbiev brings that same freakish strength and resilience to the world of boxing. All he can do is continue knocking down what’s in front of him, but with time working against him, now 35 years old, the Russian Artur Beterbiev will be on a seek and destroy mission to make the biggest showdowns, meet the toughest opponents and to become the sports most devastating, undisputed icon.

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Photograph – Mikey Williams


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