Weekend Review: Artur Beterbiev rolls on but biggest challenge lies ahead
A critical look at the past week in boxing
Artur Beterbiev – Nineteen knockouts in as many professional fights. The last eight in title fights, including an eighth-round stoppage of Anthony Yarde on Saturday in London. That means even elite opponents can’t survive against the 175-pound titleholder. And he’s still doing it at 38 years old. All that is impressive any way you look at it. Beterbiev isn’t a one-punch knockout artist, a la Deontay Wilder. He’s an excellent, experienced boxer adept at landing heavy, precise punches that break down both the bodies and will of his foes. Yarde gave a brave performance but simply couldn’t take anymore in the end, further evidence of Beterbiev’s destructive ability. Is he in the class of Terence Crawford or Naoya Inoue? Probably not. They’re far more dynamic than he is. Then again, if Beterbiev gets the fight he wants – against Dmitry Bivol – and wins, we might have to reevaluate his place among the best fighters in the world.
The end is near for Anthony Yarde. James Chance / Getty Images
Anthony Yarde – The Londoner gave a solid performance, which is why he was leading on two of the three scorecards after seven rounds. He gave a stalking Beterbiev problems with his quickness and movement while also connecting on enough punches to impress the judges, which made the fight competitive. Yarde’s problem was his limited defensive ability. He simply took too many damaging blows, which led to his demise over time. In other words, Yarde (23-3, 22 KOs) wasn’t good enough to beat a fighter with Beterbiev’s ability. Where does he go from here? He probably performed well enough to get more opportunities going forward if he can get a few victories under his belt. One thing he might want to consider: Work with a fitness expert to reduce his bulk. That could enhance both his speed and stamina. Who knows? He might end up at 168 pounds.
Dmitry Bivol – Beterbiev and Bivol appear to be on a collision course for the undisputed championship, assuming competing promotional loyalties can be overcome. Who wins? Bivol. Of course, you can’t dismiss Beterbiev’s chances for the reasons listed above. He hasn’t stopped all of his opponents by accident. The problem for Beterbiev is that he hasn’t faced anyone near Bivol’s ability. Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Marcus Browne, Joe Smith Jr. and Yarde are good; Bivol is special, as he demonstrated in his convincing victory over Canelo Alvarez last May. Alvarez is naturally smaller than Beterbiev but he has a similar style; he patiently, but inevitably breaks down his opponents to win fights. The Mexican star couldn’t do that against Bivol because of Bivol’s size advantage and superior boxing ability, particularly his defensive skills. Of course, Bivol wouldn’t have a size advantage over Beterbiev but he’s a much better boxer. That would be the difference in the fight.
News item: Jake Paul and Tommy Fury have agreed to meet on pay-per-view Feb. 26. I want to say I don’t care one iota because it’s a gimmicky matchup between hucksters who are more adept at marketing themselves than actually fighting. The fact is I’m curious. Fury (8-0, 4 KOs) might be the best fighter Paul (6-0, 4 KOs) will have faced. Can Paul land his big right hand against the half brother of Tyson Fury? Or will he meet his match against a good athlete with some boxing ability? I’ll be watching to find out. What can I say? They got me. … Welterweight contender Alexis Rocha (22-1, 14 KOs) delivered a dramatic knockout on Saturday in Inglewood, California, stopping late replacement and naturally smaller George Ashie (33-6-1, 25 KOs) with a right hook in the seventh round. The victory doesn’t mean much because of Ashie’s limitations but Rocha did what he set out to do, which was to make a statement. He’s ranked No. 3 by the WBO, behind only champion Terence Crawford, Vergil Ortiz and Keith Thurman. Is Rocha in the class of such fighters? I’ll just say that he hasn’t demonstrated that yet. He called out Crawford after his victory over Ashie. Nothing I saw on Saturday leads me to believe Rocha can compete with the pound-for-pound king.
Alexis Rocha stops George Ashie with huge hook in Round 7
Artur Beterbiev overcomes spirited effort from Anthony Yarde, keeps KO streak alive