By Eric Staunch: Undefeated No.2 IBF light heavyweight contender Artur Beterbiev (9-0, 9 KOs) will be battling unbeaten Cuban #9 IBF Sullivan Barrera (16-0, 11 KOs) in the coming months in an International Boxing Federation 175lb title eliminator in the coming months. The winner of the Beterbiev-Barrera fight will face IBF light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev as the IBF mandatory challenger. There still isn’t a specific date and venue for the fight. The details for the date and location will be negotiated in the coming weeks.
The IBF didn’t have too many takers in terms of contenders willing to face the unbeaten Beterbiev. The IBF asked the following contenders and were rejected: Jean Pascal, Bernard Hopkins and Erik Skoglund. Had Barrera not accepted the fight, it would have gone down to Tim Williams.
Things would have been looking really bleak if even Williams turned down the fight with Beterbiev. These guys obviously aren’t turning down the fight with Beterbiev for the heck of it. They’re turning him down because he’s a tough opponent, and he’s not someone that they can count on beating like they do with many of their opponents.
Beterbiev, 30, has really been impressing since he turned pro several years ago. He’s knocked out everyone he’s faced, including former world champions Tavoris Cloud and Gabriel Campillo. Beterbiev is a two-time Olympian from Russia, who has twice beaten Kovalev in the amateur ranks. Kovalev was hoping to fight Beterbiev in November in a fight that his promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events wanted to take place in Moscow, Russia.
Beterbiev turned the fight down because he wants to be the IBF mandatory challenger, not a voluntary challenger. There’s more money for Beterbiev if he can become the IBF mandatory. Facing the 33-year-old Barrera will make it more difficult for Beterbiev, but he’s not worried about Barrera, because if he can’t beat a guy like him, then he doesn’t deserve to be fighting for a world title against Kovalev.
Barrera is trained by Abel Sanchez, the same trainer that trains unbeaten IBO/WBA middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin. Barrera recently defeated the aging Jeff Lacy by a 4th round knockout. It was a good win by Barrera, but it didn’t tell us much about him because Lacy has been considered a shot fighter for many years. Barrera would have been better off facing the likes of Andrzel Fonfara or Eleider Alvarez if he wanted to show the boxing world how good he is.
If Beterbiev can defeat Barrera, it will put him in with Kovalev for a world title shot. Beterbiev will have the chance to win the IBF, WBA and WBO light heavyweight titles all at once against Kovalev, because those are the belts that he currently has in his possession.
Beterbiev is coming off of an impressive 7th round knockout win over a reluctant Alexander Johnson last June. Beterbiev had to chase Johnson around the ring before stopping him in the 7th.