News May 2017

Beterbiev Warns Rivals "I've No time for Rattlebrains I just want to beat the best!"


Dynamite puncher Artur Beterbiev talks to Livefight ahead of July 29 IBF eliminator

By Michael J Jones

Artur Beterbiev

THE STRICKEN BOXER took one final left hook followed by a whipping right-uppercut and jack-knifed to the canvas for the fourth occasion. On his front, he lurched up dazedly to look to the referee, his face a mask of pain and shock “how has this happened to me?” The ref completed the count and Artur Beterbiev announced himself as one of the world’s best fighters.

Tavoris Cloud, as a former IBF world champion and a veteran of 26 bouts, was meant to provide the first meaningful test to the gifted Russian but, to put it plainly, he was clinically and ruthlessly destroyed….against a man with just five pro contests to his name entering the fight.

“I was not surprised by my convincing victory over Tavoris Cloud in the second round” recalls Artur Beterbiev nearly three years later. “However, to be honest, I thought the fight would be longer and was preparing very seriously for this fight. However, this is boxing, I hit him hard, saw he was shaken and decided to not let him escape. It happened so fast, but I would not call it a surprise.”

Since his landmark victory, the former outstanding amateur has continued to inflict violent terror in the 175lb ranks. To date he has halted eleven straight pro opponents whilst picking up a collection of titles. At 32, he now looks to continue his dominance against the world’s best light-heavyweight fighters in what is a superb division in boxing.

Up next will be German contender Enrico Koelling on July 29th in Quebec City. The bout will serve to grant the winner the IBF number one position and potentially put him in line to face the victor of the mouth-watering rematch between Sergey Kovalev and Andre Ward.

“I have been training very hard since mid-January. I should always be in perfect shape so that I could seize an opportunity when my next opponent comes up. You know very well the story when Sullivan Barrera declined to fight me. Afterwards the IBF launched an expedited procedure to find me an opponent.”

“To cut a long story short, Enrico Koelling agreed to challenge me one hour before the expiry time in an IBF final eliminator so my next fight should take place against him. As far as I know GYM (Groupe Yvon Michel*) must inform the IBF before May 19, 2017, about the location and date of the fight. So far the preliminary date and place of fight is set in Quebec City on July 29th, 2017, but everything may change.”

Before the explosive-punching Russian’s own belated fight date, three tasty-looking light-heavyweight bouts are set to go ahead in June, with the said rematch between Kovalev and Ward occurring on the 17th and a double-header featuring before then on June 3rd.

WBC champion Adonis Stevenson will face Andrzej Fonfara in a return match, the co-feature will see rising Eleider Alvarez take on former champion Jean Pascal in a classic cross-roads bout. The latter two fights take place in Canada and one would think Beterbiev would be a keen observer though he plays down such notions when Livefight asks him his thoughts on the above matches.

“I know that in June the fans will see some good boxing in the light-heavyweight division” the undefeated star reasons. “However, I do not follow any boxers and do not watch any fights live. I am training very hard during the week, so I dedicate my leisure time to my family during the weekend and don’t watch any boxing. I only watch the recorded fights of my future opponents with my coach (Marc Ramsay). This is part of my preparation for the next bout.”

In an incredibly successful amateur career comprising of over 300 bouts, Beterbiev was a two-time Olympian who also was a world champion and a two-time European champion before turning pro four years ago.

Obviously no easy question, but I ask what Artur’s own personal highlights of his amateur career were?

“My first highlight in the amateurs was when I went to Beijing in 2008 to take part in the Olympics. I was dreaming about the Olympic Games since my childhood. However, I was very much disappointed with the Olympics because of the biased judgement (Beterbiev lost a dubious decision in his second-round match).”

In his second Olympic Games in London, Beterbiev, boxing in the heavyweight division, would lose a debatable decision to future cruiserweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk.

“Another highlight was when I became a world champion. It is always very emotional when you step up to the podium. When I turned from juniors to adult category, I already received offers to become a professional boxer. However, at that time I was not thinking seriously about that path and that’s why I was fully focused on my amateur career.”

“From my childhood I have admired two great boxers; Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. I consider Muhammad Ali as a legend, he left an undeniable mark on the sports. I cannot even name a second athlete who could be compared to him.”

The Russian in training last week

Similarly to his hero Tyson, the Montreal-based knock-out artist was matched against experienced opposition as he began his ascendancy in the pro ranks and proceeded to stop all in his path with chilling efficiency. There’s no wild swings from the Russian, he marches forwards purposefully with his hands high and uses subtle movements to time his power punches both to head and body. His defensive skills are also underrated; he often slips an opponent's punch just enough to stay in range and land the counter blow.

Once an opponent is hurt, he pounces to deliver the finishing combination. Of his eleven vanquished foes to date, only one has suceeded in navigating past the fourth round.

“I do not know if I always was a strong puncher. However, it is true that I finished many of my fights in the amateurs before time by knocking out my opponents” the 32 year old comments on his freakish power. “As for my training program I always wanted to learn something new from my childhood; power, stamina, techniques, etc. I am very much interested in everything which is new for me.”

“I believe that even now I have not achieved even 50 percent of what I could have achieved regarding my boxing skills. I am always for the progress in everything and during the training sessions I do my best to improve my punching power, finesse, stamina, physical and mental toughness. The attributes necessary for a top fighter have always excited me.”

One man did have the audacity to have a short-lived moment of success against Beterbiev though. The American Jeff Page Jr, 15-0 coming in, briefly floored the favourite with a right in the first round when the two met in December 2014 although Artur strongly denies it was a genuine knock-down.

“My brief trip to the canvas against Jeff Page I lost my footing. If you re-watch the video of this fight attentively, you will see that at that very moment I was in a very unstable position. Even one small push was enough to lose the balance, so this is what really happened.”

To punctuate his point, the Russian pole-axed Page in the very next round to score yet-another early finish.

After Page Jr paid for his fleeting moment of glory, Beterbiev would then crush former world champion Gabriel Campillo in four before grinding out a seven-round stoppage of Alexander Johnson in his sole bout outside of Canada as a pro (knocking out Johnson in Chicago).

He would have surgery on a niggling shoulder injury soon after which forced him out for twelve months but seemed back to his best last year with brutal knock-outs of Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna and Isidro Ranoni Prieto in June and December respectfully.

“My shoulder I had surgery on in 2015 it just got stronger and I even feel more comfortable now when I punch with my right hand” confirms the unbeaten light-heavy. “I felt discomfort before the surgery, but now everything is OK. My last two fights after the surgery may serve as a proof of this.”

With men such as Andre Ward, Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev in his sights, is the 11-0 puncher concerned he has yet to go past round seven so far in his career when the above men have all navigated ten or twelve rounds on numerous occasions?

“I have absolutely no concern that I have not been past the seventh round during my professional career” insists Artur. “Before every fight I train very hard and get prepared for twelve rounds. That’s why physically, mentally, and psychologically I am always ready to fight to the last round. But if I get an opportunity to finish the fight earlier, I always do this.”

Beterbiev has history with former WBO champion Kovalev. The two men were said to be amateur team mates and regular sparring partners at one time who fought each other twice before they turned professional with Beterbiev winning on both occasions.

Since becoming one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet, Kovalev has gone on record to say the second of the said fights was a “gift decision” to his fellow Russian. Clearly a man of few words and who prefers to do all of his talking in the ring, Beterbiev refuses to fuel any trash-talk between the pair.

“Some boxers are 'rattlebrains', and I am not that kind of person” responds Artur of Kovalev's comments. “I always pay attention to what I say. What does all this mouth trash serve for? I would prefer to battle in the ring instead of entering into word battles by making empty declarations. As for my fights against Kovalev in the amateurs, he may say whatever he wishes, it is all the same to me. He must have forgotten a Russian proverb which says 'There's no use in throwing punches after the fight'.”

With the IBF eliminator vs Koelling scheduled, does that mean Beterbiev is openly targeting the Kovalev-Ward winner?

“I do not look ahead of time. My goal now is to win at least one (world championship) belt. I do not care who might become my opponent for the world title: Ward, Kovalev or any other boxer. The most important thing for me is to take part in a championship fight. However, I am not thinking about this now, because my most important bout is the next one. I need a victory to become a mandatory contender so that nobody could avoid me.”

Artur Beterbiev has shown few weaknesses so far in his eleven early victories but, at 32-years-old, is there a time scale for the completion of his career as a professional boxer?

Destroyed:Beterbiev whips Cloud

“As long as I am an acting athlete I don’t have the right to think about retirement. Of course, I am not planning to leave boxing in near future, but if it turns out that I will have to finish my career, I think I will be able to realize myself in other areas, because I have several university degrees.”

Finally, Artur had this to say to his fans in the UK.

“It is always my pleasure to thank my fans all over the world for supporting me. As for the UK fans I would like to convey my warmest greetings to them. I took part in the 2012 Olympics in London, what a wonderful city! I like England, your country is a birthplace of modern boxing. Such great boxers as Lennox Lewis, (ABA champion) Gary Johnson, Henry Cooper, (another former outstanding amateur) Charles Morris, Ricky Hatton, David Haye, Dereck Chisora have made England famous in the boxing world, let alone an amateur boxer and avid boxing fan Jack London."

"I always admire UK arenas fully packed with English fans. I hope that one day I will have an opportunity to combat before my UK fans, everything is possible!”

Next opponent Enrico Koelling appears to be a solid but unspectacular-type. He is 23-1 but has only six knock-outs on his record and hasn't beaten anyone who could be viewed as genuine world-class. Expect the German to be clinically dispached inside of three rounds.

Beterbiev's last bout vs Isidro Ranoni Prieto

Livefight would like to thank Artur Beterbiev and his translator Damir Khayretdinov for conducting this interview from their base in Canada.

*The Koelling bout has since been confirmed even though there are currently some issues between Artur and GYM which Livefight chose not to discuss on this occasion because of the potential legal implications involved.

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