Top-five moments of Artur Beterbiev's illustrious career

Artur Beterbiev, for many, is a future Hall of Famer.

Beterbiev faces Callum Smith on Saturday, January 13, live on ESPN and Sky Sports, as he looks to defend his IBF, WBO, and WBC light heavyweight world titles in Canada. 

Beterbiev is 19-0 with 19 KOs. He is 38-years-old. Despite being a pound-for-pound fighter, you could argue that he has flown under the radar when you consider other boxers with similar accomplishments. 

1. Amateur career

One of the most well-accomplished amateurs of his era, Beterbiev holds wins over Sergey Kovalev, Oleksandr Usyk, and Michael Hunter to name a few. He competed in the 2012 London Olympics, but was bounced by eventual gold medalist Oleksandr Usyk in the second round. 

Beterbiev was, in many ways, the fighter of his era in the amateurs. The No. 1 guy. Fighters like Sergey Kovalev had to play second fiddle, yet the commercial success Kovalev went on to see has yet to find Beterbiev. 

2. Early success 

Beterbiev stopped former world champion Tavoris Cloud in his sixth pro fight and knocked out Gabriel Campillo in his eighth. 

That is fast-tracking, but his career since that point in 2015, nine years ago has been slow. 

What made Beterbiev so promising early on was his willingness to accept hard fights. It was an era of over marination; business coming before sport. Player empowerment. The fighters should be paid as much as possible, and the fans just have to deal with it, even if the fights weren’t good. 

Beterbiev was the antithesis of this. Along with fighters like Vasiliy Lomachenko, Beterbiev moved fast and wanted the best opposition, making him a name that stood out early.

3. Network agnostic 

Beterbiev stopped Campillo on a PBC on CBS card. He fought Callum Johnson on DAZN. The early portion of Beterbiev’s career was unpredictable, partially because he seemed to appear on every telecast known to man.

Though he aligned with ESPN in 2017, Beterbiev has never seemed to become a staple of boxing programming on any network, which is odd given all of his fights have ended in knockouts.

4. Signs with Top Rank

Beterbiev finally found a major promoter in 2017. He signed with Top Rank Inc, as he fought for his first world title in Fresno, California, against Germany’s Enrico Kölling. He stopped Kölling in the final round to win the vacant IBF light-heavyweight title. 

‘Iceman’ John Scully reflected to ProBox TV years ago about how Beterbiev simply decided to stop Kölling in the final round and did. Beterbiev has held that belt for seven years. 

Signing with Top Rank also set the stage for confusing behind-the-scenes drama. Beterbiev had a legal dispute with his former promoter Yvon Michel. This case from 2017-2018 started his inactivity.

Despite finding himself with a major promoter, things didn’t get easier. Quite simply, it was hard for him to find suitable opponents to captivate the general public's attention. 

5. Unification with Gvozdyk

Artur Beterbiev had a forgettable night in Stockton, California, where he stopped ‘Hot Rod’ Radivoje Kalajdzic in five rounds. His performance was great, but playing second-fiddle to local draw Gabriel Flores Jr. didn’t help. Many of the fans who came to see Flores left as Beterbiev entered the ring with half of the arena empty for his fight. 

In October of that year, Oleksandr Gvozdyk won the WBC light heavyweight title. He was being promoted heavily given Teddy Atlas had become his trainer. Beterbiev was the betting underdog for their fight in Philadelphia. It was felt that Gvozdyk, given his ties to Lomachenko and Usyk, was going to finally breakthrough and fulfill his promise. 

Instead, Beterbiev wore down and stopped Gvozdyk, who was not durable enough to make Beterbiev hesitant to push forward. It was Beterbiev’s crowning moment. Somehow, it is now four-and-a-half years later and it has not got any bigger or better for Beterbiev, yet.

Since 2019, Beterbiev’s career has been one of inactivity. With only one suitable equal in his division, Dmitrii Bivol, two things have plagued him: lack of activity and compelling fights. Beterbiev didn’t box at all in 2020 and fought only once in each of the following years.

Despite Beterbiev stopping Anthony Yarde in a fun fight, one of the most violent of 2023, many put the competitive nature of the bout down to Beterbiev’s age, 38-years-old at the time of the fight. 

Beterbiev has been so good that only fighting the best will get people excited, and a lot will depend on whether he can land the Bivol fight should he get by Smith.