Boxing fans have long awaited the defining fight for IBF Light-Heavyweight Champion 🇷🇺Artur Beterbiev (14-0-0, 14KO), who between the years of 2014-2016 was considered by many to be the boogeyman of the division. Friday night’s fight with WBC Champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk in Philadelphia will be the proving ground for the imposing 34 year old Russian, who comes fully equipped with dynamite in his left hand and C4 in his right, with a highlight reel of knockouts if you have any doubts about either.
Ahead of Friday’s fight let’s look at Beterbiev’s last three bouts which, unfortunately, is all he has had in the last three years due to promotional issues. None of these past opponents have brought the skills Gvozdyk will, but they presented different scenarios for him as they played out.
vs Enrico Koelling (23-1-0, 6KO), November 11, 2017: With the vacant IBF Light-Heavyweight title at stake Beterbiev faced off with the 27 year old Koelling in Fresno, California. As always Beterbiev was highly favored heading into the fight, as Koelling was a limited fighter who with six knockouts on his record, virtually held zero threat to hurt Beterbiev in any fashion.
Make no mistake that Beterbiev completely dominated the overall lackluster fight from start to finish, but Koelling didn’t fold easily. The German’s ability to take the firepower and go rounds didn’t seem to frustrate Beterbiev or pull him away from the gameplan as he continued to patiently, and methodically deliver his powerful 1-2 combinations along with left uppercuts to slowly dismantle Koelling, getting the knockout in the 12th round.
Assessment: Beterbiev was always viewed as a patient fighter, but it was with the thought that he and the rest of us all knew that the knockout was to come, probably before the halfway point of the fight. Here against Koelling he displayed extended patience and focus into the latter rounds, not letting the desire for a knockout consume him to the point that he rushed his work and turned brute. In the end he kept his KO% perfect and Koelling suffered the fate 11 fighters before him had, only he took a lot more punishment in the process.
vs Callum Johnson (17-0-0, 12KO), October 6, 2018: in the first defense of his IBF title, Beterbiev faced off with the then undefeated British light heavy contender Callum Johnson. From the beginning you saw the difference in Beterbiev’s approach. His usual method of firmly taking charge center ring and backing his man down took a backseat to a more measured, cautious approach as this time, he stood across a fighter in Johnson who carried firepower of his own.
The fight would eventually break open and Beterbiev put Johnson down in the first round, but would face some real adversity of his own as a short left hook from Johnson put him on the canvas in round two. Beterbiev got to his feet and showed his ability to recover as there were no signs of being on unsteady legs as the round closed. To his peril Johnson’s aggression continued and worked himself right into Beterbiev’s right hands that put him down and out in the fourth.
Assessment: This finally provided a look into how Beterbiev responds when faced with adversity, and it appears that it stays in line with how he approaches everything else in the ring as he got up and stayed the course as the fight eventually came to him. He got into exchanges with Johnson once the fight called for it, but it cant be ignored that he approached the fight just as tactical as ever, measuring and gauging the powerful Brit.
vs Radivoje Kaladjzic (24-1-0, 17KO), May 4, 2019: Beterbiev stepped away from his usual calculated approach in the ring and decided to adopt a “ready or not here I come” bull rush style in his second title defense against Kaladzjic. Kaladzjic fought back the best he could, landing some solid work of his own during the heavy exchanges, but in the end succumbed to the heavy hands of the Russian as the referee halted the bout just 13 seconds into the 5th round.
Assessment: I wouldn’t expect to see this approach taken very often by Beterbiev, but something was in him that night that convinced him he would get rid of Kaladjzic early and it turned into a slugfest for a few rounds. As stated before, he will win the bulk of firefights, but punishing his opponent over the course of a fight is where you see his best work, and the knockouts come just the same that way.