Is there a more exciting division in boxing right now than the light-heavyweights?
Last night Russian amateur star Artur Beterbiev added more heat to an already spicy mix by establishing himself as a serious player in the division in just three and a half minutes, annexing the NABA light-heavyweight title in the process. Adonis Stevenson, Bernard Hopkins, Sergey Kovalev and Jean Pascal have a new and very dangerous looking rival to consider in any future plans. The 175lb. class, a wasteland in terms of competition for so long, hasn’t been this lively since the late 70’s when Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, John Conteh, Victor Galindez, Marvin Johnson and Matthew Saad Muhammad all competed for world titles.
Montreal was the stage for Beterbiev’s big statement fight as he took on Tavoris Cloud, a boxer who admittedly hasn’t impressed anyone in years but who was still regarded as a legit top contender by most. He didn’t embarrass himself in his match with Adonis Stevenson last fall and he didn’t look any worse than any of “The Alien’s” other recent victims when he faced Bernard Hopkins before that. But against this Russian destroyer, Cloud appeared in definite need of a career change.
Beterbiev, a two-time Olympian with amateur wins over Ismayl Sillakh and Sergey Kovalev, wasted no time in seizing the initiative, taking over from the opening bell and showing zero respect for “Thunder.” He threw vicious power shots with both fists and a heavy right hand had Cloud, whose chin has never been questioned, in serious trouble. Displaying excellent finishing instincts, Beterbiev just kept throwing big punches and three knockdowns were the result, a badly hurt Cloud saved by the bell at the end of round one.
One wondered if the more experienced fighter might find a way to slow the pace and change the complexion of the contest in the second round but Beterbiev, who turned pro just 15 months ago, gave him no chance. He forced Cloud into a corner and unleashed another barrage of heavy artillery, a final left hook snapping the former champion’s head back and putting him down for the count.
Has any prospect made a more emphatic statement than Beterbiev this year? In just his sixth pro fight, the Russian warrior demolished a seasoned pro and former champ (who reportedly left the ring last night with a broken jaw) and showed he definitely belongs in the conversation as to who are the top light-heavyweights in the world.
Over the next several months, we can look forward to more significant bouts at 175 as Bernard Hopkins and Sergey Kovalev meet in November and Adonis Stevenson is expected to be back in action the month following. Word is Stevenson will then meet Pascal in April. After those match-ups are decided, Beterbiev against the winners, an idea no one would have taken seriously just a few weeks ago, suddenly makes a great deal of sense. Because Artur Beterbiev has arrived. And make no mistake, he’s for real.
— Robert Portis