No one is close to Beterbiev or Bivol, admits light-heavyweight star Whittaker

The divisive Olympic silver medalist Ben Whittaker got people talking last weekend with his showboating on his way to a comprehensive fifth-round stoppage of Khalid Graidia.

Some find Whittaker’s moves in poor taste, others want to see him do it against a better level of opposition, but some thoroughly enjoy his showmanship.

Regardless, he knows there is another fight at his weight that will get people talking this year, and that is when the leading two light-heavyweights, Artur Beterbiev and Dmitrii Bivol meet in Saudi Arabia on June 1.

“That is a great fight, if I am honest,” admitted the 26-year-old Englishman. “Some days, I have picked Bivol due to his speed. But after that Callum Smith fight [which Beterbiev won in the seventh round], and it is now like to me, ‘Oh okay’, because a lot of people think he is just an aggressive, brawling knockout artist and this and that. But he does have a great boxing brain. He edges in slowly, sometimes making you throw hard, and then countering you. He is very clever, so after that last performance, if I am truly honest, I am now actually pushing more towards Beterbiev.”

Many see it as the skills of Bivol against the power of Beterbiev, but Whittaker sees grey area in the black and white and does not see Beterbiev as a one-dimensional slugger. 

“But it is a fight where one punch can change the fight,” Whittaker admitted. “It is a fight I am excited for, and I would like to see it happen.”

Does he think they are clearly No. 1 and 2 in the division?

“One hundred per cent,” Whittaker went on. “I don’t think anyone is even close to them, especially Beterbiev. 

“Just look at Callum Smith, on paper, [with] his resume. He was a world champion, and a lot of fighters would have loved to have his accomplishments. He [Beterbiev] made it, if we are talking in amateur terms, made a national champion look like a beginner if I am honest. It was crazy to see that level.

“I’m not knocking Smith; I think he is a great fighter, but that is the difference, and that is crazy.”

Of course, it is not a one-sided fight on paper, however good Beterbiev looked in Quebec last month. Bivol is the younger of the two, aged 33 and with a record of 22 wins and 11 stoppages. Beterbiev has just turned 39, and he’s knocked out all 20 of his victoms. 

“If you look at Bivol, look at what he did to Canelo [widely outpointing the Mexican], the ‘face of boxing’ and the ‘face of the sport’,” Whittaker said, weighing it up. 

“It is a fight with two great fighters, and whoever wins that does really deserve to have all the belts.”