By Allan Fox: Artur Beterbiev (11-0, 11 KOs) weighed in successfully on Friday in coming in at 174.6 pounds for his fight this Saturday night against Enrico Koelling (23-1, 16 KOs) in a match for the vacant IBF light heavyweight title at the Save Mart Arena in Fresno, California.
The 5’11 ½” Beterbiev, 32, looked considerably taller than the 5’11” Koellig despite there being only a half inch that separates them in their listed height. Beterbiev towered over Koelling during the face off after the weigh-in on Friday.
Beterbiev-Koelling will be televised on ESPN and ESPN Deportes on Saturday night at 10:30 p.m. ET/ 7:30 p.m. PT.
Koelling, 27, weighed in at 174.4 lbs. and he looked in good shape. Koelling looked very intimidated by Beterbiev, especially during the face off. Koelling had the look on his face like someone who didn’t want to be there.
”I’m very afraid, but I’m in shape,” said Koelling to ITRBoxing. “It’s no problem for us to fight in the United States. His punches may be the biggest problem in the fight,” said Koelling in talking of Beterbiev’s power.
Beterbiev and Koelling will be fighting for the IBF 175 lb. title that was recently vacated by Andre “SOG” Ward. He decided to get out of the sport in a hurry following his knockout win over Sergey Kovlaev in their rematch last June.
”He’s a strong, experienced fighter,” said Beterbiev to ITRBoxing about Koelling. ”I’m ready for this fight. This is my dream. I wanted to fight for title many years. I’m ready for title. I want title. I can’t predict because I’m not Nostradamus, but I try to do my best. I don’t know. Ask them,” said Beterbiev when asked if he’s the hardest puncher in the light heavyweight division.
Beterbiev comes into the fight with Koelling with a lot of amateur experience in Russia. Beterbiev competed in 2 Olympics in representing Russia. He didn’t have much luck in other, but with the scoring system in that competition, he was never going to win.
Beterbiev’s fighting style has always been more suited to the grind it out style of the pro game rather than the fencing style that is used in the amateurs. During Beterbiev’s time in the amateur ranks, he defeated Sergey Kovalev a couple of times. Beterbiev arguably robbed in 2 fights with Oleksandr Usyk in 2011 and 2012. Beterbiev landed the better shots, and appeared to win both fights, but the judges gave the fight to the Ukrainian fighter. Usyk is now the WBO cruiserweight champion.
It would be interesting to see Beterbiev and Usyk fight each other in the pro ranks. If the two of them ever wind up in the same division, it could be possible. However, Usyk is talking of wanting to eventually move up to heavyweight, so it’s unlikely that he’ll stay around at cruiserweight long enough to fight Beterbiev.
Another big name Beterbiev has fought is Cuban Yunier Dorticos, who is currently the WBA cruiserweight champion. Beterbiev destroyed Dorticos by a 1st round knockout in 2006 in the World Cup. That was a long time ago. Dorticos is now a division above Beterbiev. That would be a good fight to see as well if Beterbiev ever moves up in weight before his career is over.
Beterbiev moved from Russia to Montreal, Canada after he turned pro in 2013, and he’s currently being promoted by Yvon Michel.
Beterbiev has looked great in stopping former light heavyweight world champions Tavoris Cloud and Gabriel Campillo by early knockouts. Beterbiev also has stoppage wins over Isidro Ranoni Prieto, Ezequiel Osvaldo Prieto, Alexander Johnson and Jeff Page. Beterbiev hasn’t yet fought any of the guys that are considered to be talented fighters in the 175 lb. division like Sullivan Barrera, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Eleider Alvarez, Dmitry Bivol, Adonis Stevenson, Sergey Kovalev, Badou Jack, Joe Smith Jr., Juergen Braehmer or Anthony Yarde. Those are guys that Beterbiev will need to beat for him to be considered the No.1 fighter in the light heavyweight division.
Beterbiev’s punching power makes him dangerous for anyone in the division. He can punch with major power on the inside or the outside. That’s what makes Beterbiev so special. Most fighters specialize in punching well at close range or on the outside, but not both.
Beterbiev is one of the rare fighters that can hit with devastating power long or close range. That’s why some boxing fans think Andre Ward ducked Beterbiev by retiring just when he was going to be put in the position where he’d have to fight him or he’d lose his IBF title. Only Ward knows for sure why he retired rather than stayed around long enough to defend his IBF title against Beterbiev.
Beterbiev winning the IBF light heavyweight title on Saturday night will open the door for much bigger fighters against the top guys in the division. Beterbiev has been pegged as a future world champion since his amateur days in Russia. Beterbiev stuck around the amateur ranks to give the Olympics one more shot in competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Great Britain.
Beterbiev had previously taken part in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, and lost a controversial match to Chinese fighter Zhang Xioping in round 1/8. That was another Olympics where the best didn’t triumph. Xioping would go on to win a controversial gold medal in the eyes of some boxing fans.
It’s unfortunate that Beterbiev won’t be facing one of the bigger punchers in the light heavyweight division for the IBF title on Saturday night. Koelling isn’t a big puncher, and Beterbiev likely won’t get a lot of attention from the boxing world if he wins on Saturday. Beterbiev would accomplish much more if he beat Gvozdyk, Sullivan Barrera, Bivol, Adonis Stevenson or Kovalev. Those guys are well-respected, and it would be an accomplishment for Beterbiev to beat one of them.
Beterbiev was originally going to be fighting Koelling in an International Boxing Federation light heavyweight title eliminator. Ward was the IBF champion, and Beterbiev was going to face Koelling to try and become his mandatory challenger for his belt. But all of a sudden, Ward retired and gave up his IBF strap. So, Beterbiev’s fight with Koelling went from being a title eliminator to a fight for the vacant IBF title. It would be nice if Ward has second thought about retirement and comes back to challenge the winner of the Beterbeiv vs. Koelling fight. Maybe it would give Beterbiev a shot at fighting Ward so that he could try ad become the first guy to defeat him. Ward is only 1 year older than Beterbiev at 33-year-sold. It’s not as if Ward is that much older than Beterbiev.
“This is the most important fight in my career,” Beterbiev said via ESPN from a recent news conference to promote the Koelling fight. “I worked very hard in this camp to make my dream come true. This is my dream, to become a world champion. I worked very hard in this camp to make my dream come true.”
Koelling has not been matched against quality opposition during his 5 years in the pro ranks. Beterbiev hasn’t either, but at least he’s fought a couple of old champions in Campillo and Cloud. The best that Koelling has one is beat the likes of Ryno Libenberg twice, and a number of other obscure fighters like Oleksandr Chervial and Karel Horejsek. Koelling’s management hasn’t taken any chances with him by making sure he’s been largely matched against weaker opponents.
“I am focused on Enrico Koelling but in the future I would like to face big fighters, big caliber,” Beterbiev said. “I’m excited to be in this division. It’s a hot division and it’s interesting.”
Beterbiev is going to need to move quickly against the bigger names if he wants to get to the before he starts losing his boxing skills due to his advancing age. 32 isn’t old, but he’s getting up there in age. It won’t be long before he starts showing signs of deterioration. The good thing that Beterbiev has going for him is his huge punching power. They say that power is the last thing to go for a fighter. If Beterbiev can keep his power, he might be able to hang on for another 8 more years before his career as a top fighter is over with. Look at Bernard Hopkins. He was able to fight at a high level well into his 40s, and he never had the kind of punching power that Beterbiev possesses.
Beterbiev can expect Koelling to pull out every trick in the book to try and beat him on Saturday night, because he’s not going to give in willingly. Koelling will try and use finesse to beat him, and look to win a decision on the scorecards. Koelling is not going to try and slug it out with Beterbiev.
Beterbiev could possibly become a promotional free agent after his fight with Koelling. Beterbiev believes his contract with his current promoter Yvon Michell will be up after the Koelling fight.
If Beterbiev becomes a free agent, Top Rank could go after him to sign him. They already promote Oleksandr Gvozdyk. By adding Beterbiev to their stable, Top Rank could match him against Gvozdyk in a fight that would interest a lot of hardcore boxing fans in the U.S. The casual fans won’t be familiar with either of these two guys, but the fans that do tune in to watch Beterbiev and Gvozdyk square off would be pleased.