Artur Beterbiev continues fast track to world title
CHICAGO ÔÇö Light heavyweight contender Artur Beterbiev has been moved fast throughout his professional career, but his sense of humor might be even quicker.
“If my opponent calls himself ‘Alexander The Great,’ then I’ll be ‘King Artur,'” Beterbiev said, poking fun at the nickname of his next opponent.
Beterbiev (8-0, eight knockouts) returns Friday against Alexander Johnson (16-2, 7 KOs) at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago as the other televised fight on Spike, with Erislandy Lara and Delvin Rodriguez headlining.
With all of his fights so far failing to advance past four rounds, Beterbiev is looking to add to his ninth win, as well as his first win outside of Canada.
“I was joking, but I’m here to win. That’s the truth,” Beterbiev said.
Beterbiev is coming off perhaps the most impressive win of his career, a fourth-round knockout over former light heavyweight titlist Gabriel Campillo in April. Since turning pro in 2013, Beterbiev has already established himself as one of the top heavyweights in the world.
But while he will stay busy with Johnson, Beterbiev’s eyes remain fixed on a world title.
“The only disappointment he’s had in his career is that he hasn’t fought for a world title yet,” Yvon Michel, Beterbiev’s promoter, said. “He’s willing to fight anybody in boxing in the light heavyweight division.
“There’s a lot of talent in the light heavyweight division now. There’s WBC (and RING) champion Adonis Stevenson. There’s Sergey Kovalev, who has the other three belts. There’s a guy here [in Chicago] who I have a lot of respect for, Andrzej Fonfara ÔÇª it’s a very, very interesting weight division. Artur Beterbiev wants to play a major role in it.”
Michel’s confidence in Beterbiev runs deep because of Beterbiev’s amateur background. As an amateur, Beterbiev competed in two Olympics and also took gold in the 2009 World Amateur Championships and then again in the 2010 European Amateur Championships.
Michel has moved the 30-year-old fighter on a fast track. In his sixth fight, he faced former light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud, who was admittedly on the downside of his career.
But the risk was still worth the reward.
“It was an off TV show, but we still decided to go along because it would be worth it to fight a former world champion,” Michel said. “And at that time, Cloud had never been knocked down or out. He had then been knocked down four times in two rounds.”
To help advance his career, Beterbiev recently signed with adviser Al Haymon. Friday will be the second Haymon show Beterbiev will be a part of, fighting both times under the Premier Boxing Champions banner.
It would a colossal upset if Johnson were to somehow win. Johnson took the fight just nine days ago after it was announced Beterbiev’s original opponent, Doudou Ngumbu, would no longer be on the card.
It’s a small change for Beterbiev, who had preparing for a conventional fighter but is now facing another southpaw.
“Artur just came back from a training camp for a southpaw when he fought Gabriel Campillo, and you’re going to see the adaptation he can do in a short amount of time,” Beterbiev trainer Marc Ramsey said. “It’s something amazing and you’re going to see it Friday night.”