If you look at things a certain way, you could say that Artur Beterbiev is a godsend for Mexican star Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
Beterbiev’s crushing second round TKO win over Joe Smith Jr. this past Saturday at Madison Square Garden Theater in New York allowed him to add Smith’s WBO belt to his own IBF and WBC straps and pretty much secure his place atop the light heavyweight division. WBA titlist, Dmitry Bivol, who had briefly occupied that number one slot following his upset win over Alvarez back in May, is still a firm no. 2 in the division..
Bivol’s team had already made it known that they wanted to face the winner of the Beterbiev-Smith clash and that they actually preferred that unification bout over a rematch with Alvarez.
“Bivol would be extremely interested in having a fight against the winner of this bout, especially if the winner is Artur Beterbiev, Bivol’s promoter Andrey Ryabinskiy told Sky Sports days before Saturday’s three-belt unification bout.
“The fight between Bivol-Beterbiev is a long-awaited dream of all boxing fans.”
Meanwhile, Beterbiev, after his dominant performance, is lukewarm to facing cash cow Canelo Alvarez and keen on facing Bivol in a four-belt unification.
Okay, let’s do it,” Artur Beterbiev told KO Artist Sports, when asked if he wants to face Bivol next.
“Yes, I want this fight,” Beterbiev said when asked if he wanted that Bivol fight instead of one with Canelo Alvarez.
“Unification fights are more interesting, more motivating,” Beterbiev also told media after Saturday’s win. “I prefer unification fight. I want to be undisputed.”
So, if Bivol and Beterbiev want one another and want to get this full unification bout done sooner rather than later, that leaves Alvarez out of the loop.
And, honestly, Alvarez should be very, very happy for that.
The Mexican’s unanimous decision loss to Bivol on May 7, although close on the scorecards, was really not all that close. It was a pretty decisive victory for Bivol, who controlled most of the action and managed to nullify Alvarez’s best assets. It was much closer to a 117-111 win than the 115-113 tallies on the three official judges’ scorecards.
Alvarez made a lot of noise about wanting a rematch with Bivol, but there had to be a large measure of saving face mixed in with his sportsman desire to avenge a loss. More than anyone else, he had to know how rough a time he had against Russia’s Bivol and how hard it would be to turn things around in a second try against an opponent as calm, cool, collected, and clinical as Bivol, who makes very few exploitable mistakes.
Canelo also has to know what would be awaiting him if he tried to tangle with the heavy-handed Beterbiev. The Montreal-residing Russian is one of the most dangerous fighters in the game, and he has the undefeated record and 100% knockout rate to prove it. Although Alvarez’s skills are prodigious and his will to win is great, he would be utterly outgunned against Beterbiev in a light heavyweight bout.
The native of Guadalajara has already captured a world title at 175 lbs., but that belt came from a past-prime Sergey Kovalev, who was thought to be in a career slump when they met.
One would assume that had Joe Smith Jr. managed to upset Beterbiev on Saturday, Alvarez might have jumped at the opportunity to face the more limited Smith for a shot at becoming a three-belt light heavyweight champion.
But Canelo is not a dumb man. Beterbiev is a beast and Bivol has already bested him. The two Russians working to face one another frees Alvarez up to handle things at his more comfortable weight of 168 (starting with a part three of his rivalry with Gennadiy Golovkin this September), where he’s already the undisputed, four-belt champ and rules the roost.
He’ll never cop to it publicly, but Canelo Alvarez is probably happy not being invited to the light heavyweight champion vs. champion party.