Dimitrii Bivol thinks Saudi cash can unlock dream Artur Beterbiev unification fight

Dimitrii Bivol might be facing Lyndon Arthur in Saudi Arabia this weekend, but he knows there is one fight the boxing fans are desperate to see him in.

“Yeah of course, they want to see [Artur] Beterbiev and Bivol fight,” he admitted. “I would like to make this fight happen too.” 

The influx of Middle Eastern money has made that dream contest move closer, according to Bivol.

Bivol is 21-0 and 33-years-old. Beterbiev is 19-0 and holds the IBF, WBC and WBO titles but is already 38. It’s a fight fans have been clamoring for, and Bivol can finally see a way for it to take place.

“Now I see the way this fight would happen – with Saudi,” said the WBA light-heavyweight champion. “Before, I couldn’t see who would make this fight, who would pay for this fight, to all the people [so] everyone will be fine and agree to the fight to make this fight happen. Now I see that Saudi can make this fight happen.” 

Bivol and Beterbiev have known one another “for many years – more than 15 years.”

Asked whether he liked his fellow Russian, Beterbiev laughed: “What do you mean do I like him?”

Then, he went on: “You know, we are not friends, but I respect him as an athlete, as a boxer I respect him – that he’s a very disciplined fighter, he’s a very disciplined person. I respect him, yeah. When I was an amateur, I was watching him and I tried to learn something, because he’s older and he was [an] example for me.”

With Beterbiev the older of the two, and having been largely inactive going into the Callum Smith fight next month, nearly one year on from his last bout – a win over Anthony Yarde in London – many think the longer it takes for the bout to be made, the more it favors Bivol. He understands that reasoning, too.  

Many people say this, maybe it’s better, why not, yeah,” he agreed. “But I couldn’t see that this fight could happen, before. [For] 20 years I’ve been busy, with great fighters too. Now it’s a good time to make this fight happen.”

But for Beterbiev, Smith comes first in Quebec City next month, and Smith is a live underdog.

“Of course it’s a hard fight, because Callum Smith is a good fighter,” Bivol added. “But I see Beterbiev as the favourite. Of course he could [stop Smith], he’s a puncher.” 

Arthur stands in Bivol’s way, but the Russian remains certain about what he wants, and that is the unification fight the fans covet.

“Of course it’s the fight for [the] undisputed [title],” he said, about his 2024 aspirations. “For me, it’s a great year if I fight for four belts, but now I have to be focused on December 23. I don’t need to think about it too much.”