By: Sean Crose
“My preparation was excellent,” says IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev. “I look forward to showing the American fans my talent, and I am glad to be fighting in such a great light heavyweight division.” It’s easy to overlook the fact that the 13-0 Beterbiev, who has won all his bouts by knockout, is fighting this Saturday night due to this weekend’s Canelo-Jacobs match sucking all the oxygen out of the figurative ring. The hard hitting Russian will indeed be fighting, however, in Stockton, California, on a card that will be aired live on ESPN.
Beterbiev’s opponent will be the 24-1 Radivoje Kalajdzic, who has stopped his last three opponents within the distance. What’s more, Kalajdzic’s only loss (which came via split decision) was to the undefeated Marcus Brown for the WBC light heavyweight title back in 2016. “I have a great opponent on Saturday night,” Beterbiev says, “but of course, I want to unify the titles. There are many great light heavyweights, and as a fighter, I want to test myself against the best. I want to be No. 1 in the division.”
As for Kalajdzic, the man is thrilled with the opportunity Saturday has presented him with. “About two years ago,” he says, “I quit boxing. I had a really bad injury, got a job and went up to 225 pounds. Mentally, physically, I was done. Then, I had this procedure, stem cells, and over time it did a miracle. Look at me now. I’m on ESPN fighting for a world title. Life is great.”
Kalajdzic also feels Saturday’s bout will be rewarding for the fans. “I was excited,” he says of finding out he could be Beterbiev’s next opponent, “because I had been telling my manager that (Beterbiev) was one of the guys that I would pick if I could. When I got the call, I didn’t hesitate. I took the fight. It’s going to be a fun fight. He comes forward. I come forward. It’s going to be a fun fight for the fans.”
Saturday’s ESPN card also features the 30-1-2 Jerwin Ancajas defending his IBF super flyweight title against the 31-7 Ryuichi Funai. Ancajas is looking to impress after battling Alejandro Santiago Barrios to a draw last September. “”The last time I fought, I was not happy with the result,” Ancajas says. “For this fight, we did some different things in training to prepare 100 percent for the challenge in front of us. We prepared for all different types of styles, which will help me adjust as the fight goes on. My sparring partners were excellent, and you will see the result of that training on Saturday night.”