Former boxing world champion Beterbiev signs on with promoter Michel

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

MONTREAL - There will be much to get used to in the coming months for former amateur world boxing champion Artur Beterbiev.

The 28-year-old light heavyweight will begin his professional career in Canada after signing a three-year deal with Montreal promoter Yvon Michel.

"Everything is so different here, everything is new," the bearded Beterbiev said Tuesday through an interpreter. "It's a different city, different languages, different people, training is different, new people around me. It's very exciting."

Michel and his staff are just as excited to land their first Russian fighter.

Beterbiev was European amateur champion in 2006 and 2010. He won silver at the 2007 world championship in Chicago and gold at the 2011 worlds in Azerbaijan.

He is also a two-time Olympian who reached the quarter-finals at the 2012 Games in London.

"We haven't had a boxer with his record of accomplishment since (former WBA lightweight champion) Leonard Dorin," said Michel's right hand man Bernard Barre.

"Beterbiev is ambidextrous — he can fight right or left-handed — and that's a big advantage. And he's built for pro boxing. He's not a finesse fighter. He likes to brawl. People will like him."

Beterbiev will make his pro debut on the undercard of Adonis Stevenson's title bout against WBC champion Chad Dawson on June 8 at the Bell Centre. His opponent is yet to be determined.

Barre said that, because of his age, they will fast-track him to try to get into position for a title fight within two and half years.

Beterbiev said he waited longer than most fighters to turn pro in order to chase his dream of Olympic gold. He finished just out of the medals in fifth place in London after a loss to eventual gold medallist Oleksander Usyk of Ukraine.

He has found a place to live in Montreal and his wife and two children are to join him soon.

"The way the people on my team treated me and their moral qualities really touched my heart and I really appreciated it, so I decided to choose Canada to become professional," he said.

It is an edgy time to move to North America.

Beterbiev is a Muslim of Chechnyan descent and is from Dagestan in southern Russia, the same ethnic background as suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Both also practised combat sports, but he said the resemblance stops there.

He never met Tsarnaev, who was shot and killed by police on April 19.

"I do not judge people based on their nationality, if they are from Chechnya or Dagestan or any other country," he said. "I cannot judge them from religion or any other way, so I cannot comment on that.

"You do not judge a whole nation by one person."

He added that the Boston bombings were "wrong according to my religion."

Michel did not say how much they paid to land Beterbiev, but said he would get a guaranteed minimum per year plus whatever he earns in the ring.

"It was not a question of money, it was a question of having a plan and a good staff," said Michel. "He was not looking for a short-term, big bonus, although he had offers in that direction (from promoters in Germany and the U.S.) that we would not have been able to compete with.

"He came here twice to see our (fight) cards and he made up his mind. When he came back the second time, he brought his boxing gear."

He has already found a manager in Montreal-based Anna Reva, who speaks Russian.

"Artur is an exceptional boxer in my opinion," said Reva. "There's a lot of corruption in Russia.

"I think it was the best move for him to come to Canada."

Michel originally was to co-promote Beterbiev with Adam Harris of Hennessy Boxing Canada, who made the first contacts with the fighter but who opted to pull out and leave him to the city's biggest promoter. Michel said Harris was welcome to renew the partnership whenever he wants.

Beterbiev, who vowed to learn French, will be trained by Marc Ramsay, with the multi-lingual Andrej Kulesza as fitness instructor.

He joins a team strong in the super-middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions with Stevenson, former WBC champ Jean Pascal and rising contender Eleider Alvarez.