By Dan Ambrose: IBF/WBC 175-lb champion Artur Beterbiev (16-0, 16 KOs) is planning on unifying the light heavyweight division following his 10th round knockout victory over Adam Deines last Saturday night, but he would like to face Canelo Alvarez first if he’s interested in coming up to 175.
With Canelo, he got a taste of how difficult it can be for him at light heavyweight when he dethroned WBO champion Sergey Kovalev in 2019. Canelo won the fight by a one-punch knockout in the 11th, and this was nowhere near the prime version of Kovalev that he fought.
The then 36-year-old Kovalev looked to be a shadow of the fighter who ruled the 175-lb division seven years earlier in 2012. Age, ring-wear, and rich living had done a number on Kovalev’s skills.
Is Beterbiev too powerful for Canelo?
The natural question is, if Canelo had problems against a deteriorated Kovalev, had would happen to him if he fought Beterbiev?
Kovalev’s hand speed in that fight was still better than that of Beterbiev, but he didn’t pressure Canelo how Artur would if he fought him.
When Kovalev did apply a lot of pressure on Canelo in the 8th, you could see what a bigger fighter could do against the 5’8″ Mexican star. Canelo was getting bounced around the ring by Kovalev in that round.
Beterbiev would likely attack in the same in every round, and he would have to dig deep to try and win. In other words, this wouldn’t be a gimme type of fight against an Avni Yildirim-level opponent for Canelo.
“Canelo is a cool boxer; I like him. It will not be an obstacle to enter the ring with him if there is an offer. I would gladly fight,” Beterbiev said to DAZN.
Canelo, 30, is busy this year trying to capture all the super middleweight division titles. He’s already won the WBA, WBC, and Ring Magainze 168-lb belts.
All Alvarez has left is fights against WBO champ Billy Joe Saunders on May 8th, and then IBF champion Caleb Plant in September provided he gets that far.
Canelo putting time into unifying 168-lb division
It’s unclear whether Canelo’s decision to try and become the super middleweight undisputed champion is something that he believes will win him more praise from fans or if this is a legacy-building thing where he wants to win as many division titles as possible for his legacy.
Some boxing fans believe Canelo’s true reason for putting energy into unifying the 168-lb division is that all the champions are deeply flawed. He sees it as an opportunity for him to win titles without the threat of losing.
In other words, it’s similar to how Canelo picked Kovalev at 175 to go after his fourth-division world title rather than fight IBF/WBC champion Beterbiev or WBA champion Dimitry Bivol.
Kovalev was obviously the easier threat, so he got picked rather than Bivol or Beterbiev, who have been a real handful for Canel.
“Yes, we are interested in a unification fight for one of the titles. It does not matter against whom. Either it will be the winner of the Bivol-Richards fight or the winner of the Vlasov-Smith fight,” said Marc Ramsey, the trainer for Beterbiev, last Saturday.
If Canelo doesn’t take the fight with Beterbiev, he will face the winner of the April 10th fight between Maxim Vlasov and Joe Smith Jr.
Those two are competing for the vacant WBO 175-lb title that Canelo vacated after beating Kovalev in 2019. Surprisingly, it’s taken this long for the World Boxing Organization’s light heavyweight title to be contested.
Artur looked powerful against Deines.
Beterbiev showed excellent power in dispatching Deines with a short left hook in round ten in their fight on ESPN last Saturday at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow, Russia.
Afterward, at the post-fight news conference, Beterbiev said he would like to face Canelo next, and it wouldn’t be a problem making it.
The only question is, does Canelo (55-1-2, 37 KOs) want to take a fight of this nature against the hard-hitting Beterbiev?
This would be a whole different story compared to Canelo unifying the 168-lb division against marginally talented champions Callum Smith, Rocky Fielding, Billy Joe Saunders, and Caleb Plant.
Unlike those fighters, Beterbiev would be a great threat to beating Canelo, even though he wouldn’t be able to match him in hand speed and possibly his boxing skills. Canelo is faster than Beterbiev, and his defensive ability is clearly on another level.
We saw Beterbiev getting hit a lot last Saturday by the German fighter Deines, who doesn’t have anywhere near Canelo’s speed and pedigree.
It didn’t matter. Deines was putting hands on Beterbiev throughout the fight until he was taken out in the 10th round by a left hook.
Assuming Canelo needed to see a weakness in Beterbiev’s game before deciding to return to the 175-lb division to face him, it was certainly there to be seen in his fight with Deines.
One could tell from watching that fight that Canelo would have success levels against Beterbiev, but we don’t know if he would withstand his power for 12 rounds.
The fighters that have fought Canelo since his last competitive fight three years ago have too afraid to attack him in the way they needed to have a chance of winning.