With Respect To Anthony Yarde, Boxing Needs Artur Beterbiev Vs Dmitry Bivol

'The Beast from the East' is Beterbiev's mandatory challenger, but there is another fight that makes more sense
16:55, 21 Jun 2022

Artur Beterbiev’s two-round destruction of Joe Smith Jr to unify three-quarters of the light heavyweight championship last Saturday made two things abundantly clear. Number one: Beterbiev, 18-0 with 18 knockouts, is a terrifying individual. Number two: Beterbiev’s next fight should be against Dmitry Bivol.

A Beterbiev-Bivol bout is mouthwatering for a number of reasons. A meeting between WBC, WBO and IBF boss Beterbiev and WBA title-holder Bivol would crown an undisputed champion at 175 pounds. The fight would also arrive at a point where neither man’s stock has ever been higher. Beterbiev has just entered what was supposed to be a competitive fight with a fellow world champion and emerged a swift and decisive victor. Bivol has just beaten boxing’s biggest name, inflicting Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s first defeat in nine years. Stir in the intriguing ingredient of the pair’s unbeaten records, and this is as appetising as boxing gets. 

Sadly, it looks unlikely to happen next. British contender Anthony Yarde was ringside for Beterbiev’s destruction of Smith. In winning the American’s WBO title, Beterbiev has also inherited his mandatory challenger. Yarde is expected to fight for that belt in London, with an October date being ring-fenced by promoter Frank Warren.

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A Yarde-Beterbiev bout feels out of place at this point. Without being unfair to ‘The Beast from the East’, it is rare for a fight to arrive at the perfect time in boxing. Bivol is coming off the most jaw-dropping upset victory of recent times. He did not just defeat ‘Canelo’, he dismantled the future Hall of Famer. Beterbiev meanwhile is 37 years old, and coming off perhaps the most impressive performance of his career. He may never be as well-poised to take on the challenge of Bivol again. 

Floyd Mayweather’s long-delayed fight with Manny Pacquiao demonstrated the folly of leaving a bout to gestate too long. Lennox Lewis’ one-sided demolition of Mike Tyson was another bout that suffered for its late arrival. Alvarez himself is staring down a third bout with Gennady Golovkin at a point where the latter is now past his prime, and interest isn’t what it would be if it had arrived immediately following their second scrap. Beterbiev and Bivol might never have a better opportunity than this to clash.

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Yarde is not to blame for pursuing his dream. The 30-year-old Londoner is chasing a world title, the pinnacle of achievement for all boxers. It is not his responsibility to step aside and he shouldn’t be expected to. However, his credentials for a shot at unified champion Beterbiev are a little underwhelming.

Yarde rocked Sergey Kovalev on the way to an eighth-round stoppage defeat in his previous world title challenge back in 2019. Since then he has gone 4-1 with every win coming via knockout. However, he has only faced one opponent of note in that time. Yarde lost to Commonwealth champion Lyndon Arthur via split decision, before besting the same foe via fourth-round stoppage in his last bout. Arthur is a decent operator, but as a whole Yarde’s post-Kovalev CV is not world level.

The British knockout artist will have to reach world level quickly to have any chance against Beterbiev. Smith came in with a world title belt round his waist and wins over Bernard Hopkins and Andrzej Fonfara on his CV. He left having been brutally beaten in a round-and-a-half. Yarde cannot boast the career achievements of Smith, and he would do well to learn from the American. Smith tried to force his shots, engaging in a shootout he was never going to win against a man who has stopped all his professional opponents. Yarde must be canny, only unleashing his power shots when certain they will land, before getting away while incurring minimal damage.

Beterbiev vs Yarde will be highly watchable for as long as it lasts. Two power-punchers meeting is always a treat. But it looks unlikely to be era-defining, in the same way a meeting between the Russian-Canadian and Bivol would be. And by the time the Yarde bout has played out, and Bivol has perhaps fought since, Beterbiev-Bivol may no longer be era-defining in itself. If one man loses, the intrigue is gone. If either even underperforms in victory next time out, something is lost. The time really is now for this most super of super-fights. But alas, it looks highly unlikely we will see it just yet.

ggg is 16/5 to upset canelo with betfred*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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