Fight News by NYF

Light-Heavyweights in Focus as Beterbiev Looks to Close 2016 in Style

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It is fair to say that during the last three months the Light-Heavyweight division has been a changing landscape in terms of who now owns the major belts and who has positioned themselves to perhaps fight for these belts next year.

The opening day of October saw Welshman Nathan Cleverly travel to Germany and win the WBA “Regular” belt from Juergen Braehmer. Admittedly not the highest profile matchup or most important strap to own but it does in theory give the holder a chance to fight for the more highly regarded “Super” title within the WBA’s crazy title structure.

In November we were treated to perhaps the biggest fight of the year when the dominant 175lb boxer of this era, Sergey Kovalev, faced off against highly regarded former Super-Middleweight king Andre Ward. Via a controversial unanimous decision Ward was declared the winner and left Las Vegas with the IBF, WBO and WBA “Super” titles in his possession. Due to how Ward’s victory was received by most, not all, media and fans the sensible solution would be for these great fighters to rematch early in 2017, but when was our sport ever sensible?

Two other boxers made progress in the division last weekend. Firstly on Friday Cuba’s Sullivan Barrera bounced back from his March loss to Ward in impressive fashion as he floored previously unbeaten Vyacheslav Shabranskyy three times en route to stopping him in the 7th round. This aggressive and exciting showing was a welcome return to form for the Cuban and we hope to see him box early in the new year to keep this momentum going.

Then last Saturday Joe Smith Jr. ended the in-ring chapter of Bernard Hopkins’ boxing story in an extremely forceful manner. Smith finished Hopkins off by punching him out of the ring in round eight to put an emphatic point on his victory. Combine this with Smith’s upset win over Andrzej Fonfara in June and it looks like the hard punching New Yorker has positioned himself nicely for some lucrative and important challenges in the near future.

These two bouts would have been viewed with interest by most of the other contenders at 175lbs – particularly Seanie Monaghan and Oleksandr Gvozdk, both of whom will be looking at 2017 as their year to make a significant move in the division.

The only major Light-Heavy trinket that hasn’t been in play recently has been the WBC version of the title. Held by a boxer who looks reluctant to test himself against any dangerous opposition, his last four defences make it easy to suggest this is the case, and now seems happy to fight only when required to fulfil mandatory obligations. Adonis Stevenson, the Quebec based Haitian, is the man in question and ironically it may be another transplant to Quebec who will eventually relieve him of his title.

Artur Beterbiev (10-0-0, 10KOs) is that man.

Beterbiev, a 31 year old Russian who now calls the boxing hotbed of Montreal home,  turned pro three years ago after amassing plenty of experience during an amateur career which saw him complete two full Olympic cycles. Having returned to the ring in June after a twelve month absence due to shoulder surgery Beterbiev will be looking to use his December 23 fight date as a means to springboard himself into consideration for the relevant fights at 175lbs in 2017.

In the opposite corner in Gatineau, Quebec on Friday night will be Isidro Prieto of Paraguay. Prieto (26-1-3, 22KOs) has only fought outside of South America once, funnily enough in Quebec, where he was handily outpointed by Beterbiev’s promotional stablemate Eleider Alvarez last year. This suggest that once again picking up his passport and flying north will result in another defeat for Prieto but his high knock-out percentage means Beterbiev won’t be able to box recklessly in order to get the job done. Indeed both men are very equal in terms of height and reach so Prieto may well have some moments in the fight – the question is will he be able to take advantage while at the same time avoiding Beterbiev’s dangerous replies?

As his 100 per cent KO ratio shows Beterbiev is a big puncher. Like so many of the current boxers in the mix at Light-Heavyweight he can end a fight at any moment due to his phenomenal power. Perhaps surprisingly, considering his long amateur campaign, Beterbiev doesn’t throw fluid combinations. Instead he plants his feet and looks to unleash power punches to both the head and body. This has served him well so far in the professional ranks but at times I feel he does look a little bit impatient to throw the bombs and finish his foe. Hopefully for the harder fights he should have in the future Beterbiev will look to work more behind what looks to be a strong jab, and establish this as the focal point of his offense.

For the time being though,  Beterbiev needs to take care of Prieto in assertive fashion on Friday night so that he remains in the spotlight in what is fast becoming one of the better weight divisions in boxing.

I strongly suspect that the cards at 175lbs will fall based on what Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev do next. For boxers like Artur Beterbiev and the other Light-Heavyweight contenders mentioned in this article they will need to continue to add the wins to their records and then hope they are ready to answer the bell when the really big tests are in front of them – be that against Kovalev, Ward, Stevenson or each other. We will watch with interest.

***ADDITIONAL INFORMATION***

The card from Quebec is being broadcast in the UK on BoxNation so if it is not on where you live there will still be a way to watch (so I am reliably informed).

***EXTRA***

I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish all readers of NY FIGHTS a peaceful and happy Christmas – hope you all have a good one!

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