By: Sean Crose
It’s finally been made. The long awaited undisputed light heavyweight championship fight between IBF, WBC, and WBO titlist Artur Beterbiev and WBA titlist Dmitry Bivol is set for June 1st in Saudi Arabia. The surprise announcement came during a weekend podcast of The MMA Hour, hosted by Ariel Helwani. The bout has been too long in coming. The 39 year old Beterbiev has an impressive 20-0 record. What makes the man frightening, however, is the fact that he’s won every single professional match he’s participated in by knockout. His last fight was against Callum Smith in January. Beterbiev stopped the game Englishman in seven.
Beterbiev’s June opponent, Bivol, is stylistically Beterbiev’s polar opposite. Whereas Beterbiev engages in the art of destruction, Bivol is a figurative chess master. Indeed, Bivol has indicated that he’s more than willing to let a fight go the distance if it means he’s going to end up the victor. This, of course, has led to criticism of the 33 year old, though there’s no denying his impressive 22-0 resume. He’s also famous for having defeated the great Canelo Alvarez. That 2022 battle elevated Bivol’s reputation exponentially. So skilled was Bivol that night, that many, if not most, assume that the Russian fighter would win a rematch. Bivol’s last fight was a December decision win over Lyndon Arthur.
The stylistic differences between Beterbiev and Bivol should be fascinating to behold in the ring. The fight will likely boil down to two simple questions: Will Beterbiev be able to land clean on Bivol, and what will happen if he can’t? There’s more to these questions than might be obvious at first. Bivol, after all, has knocked out fifty percent of his opponents. In other words, the man DOES have some power. And yes, Beterbiev is more than just a power puncher. The man knows how to maintain range by moving about. He also has a largely effective high guard. In other words, the heavy hitter can also box.
Undisputed championship matches are good for the sport. Fortunately, they seem to be regaining their footing after having in large part been abandoned. A few weeks before Beterbiev and Bivol answer the opening bell in June, Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk will (hopefully and finally) square off for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world. And then, of course, there was last summer’s undisputed welterweight title throwdown, where Terence Crawford dominated Errol Spence to ensure there would be no question as to who the king of the division was. Undisputed championships serve a single great service – they answer questions. Here’s hoping those questions keep being answered with regularity.
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