By: Hans Themistode
Artur Beterbiev has a lot of options on the table. The unified Light Heavyweight champion is fresh off a win against Oleksandr Gvozdyk and is the clear cut choice when choosing the best fighter in the division. Fights against WBA belt holder Dmitry Bivol and Gilberto Ramirez make a ton of sense. Even a contest with Canelo Alvarez, albeit unlikely, could be in his immediate future.
Although Beterbiev wants all of those aforementioned names, a matchup with former undisputed Cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, is the one he wanted the most.
“I had a purely sporting interest in being able to box with Usyk when he became the absolute champion [at cruiserweight],” Beterbiev said to Tass.
“I was in the process of negotiating a contract with both Top Rank and Matchroom Boxing. The proposals from each were almost the same. I told my managers that if Eddie Hearn (head of Matchroom Boxing) guarantees me a fight in the cruiserweight division with Usyk, then I will sign a contract with them. They took their time, but there were no answers from them.”
Oleksandr Usyk vs Artur Beterbiev on paper looks like a great matchup. But it doesn’t exactly fit. The two competed in divisions that are separated by 25 pounds and never seemed to be on a collision course. Yet, even while the two undefeated fighters never seemed like a perfect pairing, it turns out that they were actually made for one another.
Before both men cruised through their respective divisions, they ran right through the amateur scene. Usyk ended his unpaid career at 335-15, while Beterbiev finished off with an even better record at 295-5. But while Beterbiev had the edge in terms of record, Usyk got the last laugh when they met in 2011 and 2012. During their first go round, Beterbiev dropped Usyk with a body shot at the World Championships. Usyk shook it off and grabbed the victory. In the 2012 Olympics they met again. And just like their first matchup, Usyk squeaked by with a decision before winning gold.
Their rivalry might be nearly a decade old, but Beterbiev hasn’t forgotten anything.
“Maybe they were not interested, but I had a purely competitive interest [to fight Usyk]. We [me and Usyk] have history.”