It might be Christmas time but expect goodwill to be in short supply when Russian beast Artur Beterbiev resumes his rampage through the light-heavyweight division in Quebec on Friday.
The 5ft 11 ½in savage – who has ravaged all 10 pro opponents inside seven rounds – collides with world-rated Paraguayan puncher Isidro Ranoni Preito at the Lac Leamy Casino in Gatineau, and one senses the only gifts they’ll be exchanging will be potent leather bound fists. BoxNation screen the X-rated fare from 2am on Friday. Lock away your children!
The 31-year-old Beterbiev – who twice bashed up Sergey ‘Krusher’ Kovalev in the amateur code – is a stone-faced, stone-hearted, stone-fisted operator who, ironically, was cast in the brick-making town of Kasavyurt, in the mountainous and mafia infested Dagestan region of southern Russia.
Delve into Beterbiev’s background and you start to comprehend why the one they call ‘Wolf’ is a man of few smiles. The youngest of four, this proud Chechen patriot’s menacing mindset was conditioned during a childhood soiled by his people’s unsuccessful struggle for independence from Russia.
At an age when most western kids were attending primary school, young Art was filling tanks at petrol stations to bolster the household purse – a household that, he claims, was often swelled by up to 30 refugees. Street fighting wasn’t merely tolerated, it was positively encouraged.
The anarchic region was a hotbed for combat sports and attendance at the local boxing and wrestling schools were more the norm than the exception for neighbourhood boys. With local streets infested by organised crime, family elders ensured that Beterbiev was enrolled in both.
Commencing at the age of 10, an 18 year amateur innings helped him avoid the clutches of the local gangsters and saw him acquire decoration as a European, World Championship and World Cup gold medallist.
In two tilts at the Olympics, he was frustratingly nudged out at the quarter-final stages by the eventual champion (China’s Zhang Xiaoping at Beijing 2008 and current IBF cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk at London 2012). In between, AIBA anointed Beterbiev as their Elite Boxer of the Year for 2010.
The brilliant Usyk – now a division heavier – is on record naming Beterbiev was the toughest of his 335 amateur opponents but that provided little comfort to the boxer who, aged 28, departed to the professional brotherhood with a heavy heart and mighty point to prove.
He has presented his case in the most violent fashion since uprooting his wife and three kin to Montreal, Canada in June 2013.
He inked a deal with Groupe Yvon Michel (GYM) – who’d previously steered Jean Pascal and Adonis Stevenson to the top of the 175lb pile – and committed his ring apprenticeship to esteemed coach Mark Ramsey (whose CV includes Pascal and David Lemieux) and conditioning guru Andre Kulesza (Lucien Bute, Eric Lucas). Secretive but seriously influential string-puller Al Haymon is also on board as an ‘adviser’.
The riotious manner in which Beterbiev has carved his way to world level is little short of astonishing. Just 15 months after debuting and with just five fights and 11 paid rounds on his CV, the ‘Wolf’ dived in against iron cast ex IBF champ Tavoris ‘Thunder’ Cloud. The 24-2 Floridian’s previous seven had all been world title gigs and he’d never taken a tumble. Beterbiev bounced him off the boards four times and obliterated him within four minutes!
Next up, Jeff Page Jr from Kansas, unbeaten in 15, had the temerity to dump Beterbiev on his bum in the opening session of their December 2014 duel but that simply ignited the rage within and Page fell asleep a round later.
Four months after, in start number eight, ex WBA champ Gabriel Campillo, a 6ft 2 ½ in Spanish southpaw, took the full ten toll in round four after placing his midriff in the way of a Beterbiev right hand that was measured at 973lb of force!
Ten weeks later, Maryland southpaw Alexander Johnson (16-2) extended the chopping Chechan to a career high seven rounds but copped a vicious four-knockdown beating for his valour. Shortly after, the devout Sunni Muslim rejected a $500,000 offer to oblige revenge seeking Kovalev for the WBA, WBO and IBF belts in Moscow because his prep would have been compromised by adhering to the demands of Ramadan.
Surgery to Beterbiev’s right shoulder temporarily doused the tempest and he has started just once in the past 18 months – another four-knockdown, four-round clattering, this time with 23-2 Argentine Olympian Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna as the recipient.
His amateur breeding has instilled sound basic mechanics but there is little subtle about this Chechan tank’s modus operandi. Komrade Artur is an obscenely rugged physical specimen, with disturbing natural firepower and an executioner’s psyche. He knows only one direct, forward; only one pace, flat out. Naturally ambidextrous, he punches through the target....repeatedly....until they drop!
Despite just 30 pro rounds on his slate, Beterbiev has already clumped his way to top five rankings with all four major sanctioning bodies and will almost certainly contest a world title in his first fight of 2017, provided he comes through on Friday.
Opponent Prieto, an eight year pro who is world rated by the WBO (10), has conceded just once in 30 – on points over 12 in a thriller with Beterbiev’s Cuban stablemate Eleider Alvarez – and boasts 22 stoppage wins of his own. At 30, he’ll no doubt arrive in Quebec with his own ambitions.
Either way, this festive shin dig is unlikely to last long and certainly won’t be for the faint of heart. Someone’s waking up on Christmas morn with an almighty headache.
Watch Beterbiev v Prieto live on Friday night.