Here's something you don't often, or really ever see, which might have been off your radar this weekend.
A 5-0 guy stepped in with a 24-2 guy, a former world title challenger who'd hung right in there with Bernard Hopkins not that long ago.
Yep, this doesn't really ever happen, if for no other reason that the risk-reward for the promoter, and the matchmaker who wants to keep his job, isn't stellar. If the Dagestan-born light heavyweight hadn't done what he did at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, which was KO Cloud in round two, there would have been repercussions.
So, was a star born Saturday night at the Bell? Or, if not born, was message sent that the 29-year (6-0 with 6 KOs), who won gold at the 2009 World Amateur Championship, is ready for another leap in competition, and might soon find himself in with the division's current elite?
I posed this question to Russ Anber, a trainer who helps Marc Ramsay with Beterbiev, and has worked in the corners of Sergio Martinez, Roy Jones Jr., and Jean Pascal. He drew on his 36 years in the boxing biz, and was straightforward with his appraisal of the Russian, a two-time Olympian.
“Beterbiev is almost too good to be true,” Anber told me of the fighter, who resides with his wife and kids in Montreal. “Technically, he's a complete student of the game, old school. He's university educated, understands biomechanics. His style is strength, imposition, but he's complete. He's as strong as a heavyweight, spars heavyweights here, like Oscar Rivas. He's the kind of guy, he comes into the gym, he doesn't turn the music on, he turns it off. He goes to the body, his infighting is good. And he's beaten Sergey Kovalev in the amateurs twice!”
In checking out Beterbiev against Cloud, I noticed his calm, for so few fights. Also, you get the sense that he won't take no for an answer in delivering his offense. A stiff jab dissuades him not at all. Some body work, and then a right hand to the temple sent Cloud, who'd not been knocked down as a pro, down in the first. Left hooks had the Floridian down again, with 20 seconds left in the round. Flurries and a left hook sent Cloud to the mat again, at the bell. He showed his mettle coming out for round two, and a worse ability to handle the power of Beterbiev than he'd shown in his last bout, against Adonis Stevenson (loss, retired after round seven, due to cuts).
Beterbiev doesn't need much space to get maximal effect from his launches. Pressing Cloud into a corner, he sent him down for the fourth time. The American lay on his belly, pondered the futility of continuation, and was counted out.
“This is the most complete boxer I've seen up close,” Anber continued. “It's an effin privilege to be with him. His mental approach is that of a spartan. And I mean, he's the sort of guy you'd want your daughter to bring home. It's almost too good to be true.”
This fight came about when a Jean Pascal-Tavoris Cloud went off the rails. Ramsay told the matchmaker for promoter Yvon Michel that the 5-0 kid would step up, onto the big stage. No fear, he knows what he has, what Beterbiev is. And what is that? Someone ready for anyone, says Anber. He says all due to respect to that other guy making a successful Knievelesque jump in competition, Vasyl Lomachenko, this guy is doing it in a harder division.
So, are we thinking we could see a Sergey Kovalev-Artur Beterbiev tangle in the near future. Well of course, only a fool sees it a sure thing that Kovalev handles Bernard Hopkins on Nov. 8. But if he does, Anber says that a Kovalev-Beterbiev fight has enormous promise and potential to do bang-up business if we're thinking globally. (Could it be made from a political standpoint is not as much of a sure thing, as Kathy Duva with Kovalev and Michel, with Stevenson and now Beterbiev, are not on solid terms.)
“Outside of anyone against Jean Pascal, in this division, nobody could attract more money than a Kovalev-Beterbiev fight,” Anber said.
He is thinking Beterbiev will sneak in a fight before the end of the year. And I'm thinking a couple guys are already adding Beterbiev to their better-to-avoid list…