As if a 20-0 start with 20 knockouts and three light-heavyweight belts isn’t enough of a feat, Artur Beterbiev Monday apparently set out to record a world record for fewest words spoken at a press conference by a major boxing headliner.

The beautiful part of the news conference in London to formally introduce the participants in the June 1 battle in Saudi Arabia for the undisputed 175-pound title is that Beterbiev actually struck the defining chord of the event:

Words are not needed.

The 39-year-old Beterbiev stands as the most devastating and diabolical combatant in the sport’s heavier weights, relying on a nasty disposition and bullying spirit to systematically break down his foes – with former world champions Callum Smith, Joe Smith Jr. and Oleksandr Gvozdyk claimed in the wreckage. That said, Beterbiev now encounters a Russian countryman who may embody his Kryptonite.

World Boxing Association champion Dmitrii Bivol (22-0, 11 KOs) is the 2022 Boxing Writers Association of America fighter of the year, a crown secured via a convincing victory that stripped the title of pound-for-pound king from Mexico’s Canelo Alvarez.

“Boxing is more about class, IQ, style and skills,” Bivol manager Vadim Kornilov said in defending his fighter’s pedigree onstage.

Bivol’s sophisticated style belies his own strength and, frankly, if Alvarez were any other light-heavyweight, he might well have been dropped by the sustained barrage of blows that Bivol planted upon him in that May 2022 bout. Although the official scorecards on the night read 115-113 in the Russian’s favor, few thought the contest was that close and many assumed the cards were warped by the preconceived notion of who was supposed to win the Cinco de Mayo weekend bout in Las Vegas.

The press conference emcee described Bivol-Beterbiev as a match pitting the best pure boxer in the world versus the most destructive puncher in the world. And Bivol promoter Eddie Hearn argued that what his fighter brings to the fight makes it “one of the purest matches in the sport … the best fight in boxing.”

Hyperbole on a news-conference stage is often a exercise in eye-rolling, but this one feels authentic.

Beyond the consequences of who can stand as undisputed champion is the matter of who awaits. Canelo? David Benavidez? A rematch? But what matters most is: who will win and how?

Beterbiev’s promoter, Top Rank President Todd duBoef, kept his point simple regarding why his guy will win.

“I’ve been a fan of destruction and this guy’s (all about) destruction,” duBoef said. “My friends call me during his fights and ask, ‘Who is this monster?’

“Look at his body of work: Nobody lasts 12 rounds with him.”

Despite the importance of Monday’s event to selling global pay-per-view buys – the bout will be streamed in the U.S. by ESPN pay-per-view – Beterbiev kept his talking to a minimum.

When asked what he thought about seeing Bivol sitting to his left on the stage with the WBA belt placed in front of him, Beterbiev said, “I see another belt. I’m collecting (all the belts) and I need one more.”

As for the matter of why it took so long for the former Russian amateurs to meet, Beterbiev elicited a sly grin and said, “Ask him,” motioning to Bivol.

Bivol responded that it seemed to him that Beterbiev only wanted to work on fights promoted by Top Rank. 

Both fighters thanked Saudi Arabia’s His Excellency Turki Alalshikh for financially backing the effort to make the bout that follows two weeks after the undisputed heavyweight title fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk in Riyadh on May 18.

 

“There (was) no person who (could) make the fight and now we have His Excellency, who loves boxing and (made) it happen,” Bivol said.

Asked if he has a message to deliver Bivol before the bout, Beterbiev again remained elusive.

“He knows already,” Beterbiev said.

 

That aroused commentators on the news conference stream to wonder if Beterbiev had ever gotten the better of Bivol when they worked together for Russia as “senior” and “junior” amateurs. Had Berterbiev once beat up or knocked down Bivol in those sessions, the commentators wondered.

Kornilov told Boxing Scene afterward the pair only participated in “training, working together.”

If Beterbiev is banking on that prior version of Bivol being the same man at that he’ll now meet as a 33-year-old professional, he’s made a serious miscalculation.

“Dmitrii’s boxing is on a different level, and it needs to be against this wrecking machine,” Hearn said. “But (Bivol) hasn’t been given the credit he deserves … he beat Canelo with consummate ease. He has all the ability to stand this man on his head – footwork, ring IQ, composure. We have someone who’s very special.”

Hearn said Kornilov has been telling him for six years that “we need Beterbiev,” assessing the winner will be “the champion of the sport.”

Bivol said in devoting his life to the sport since age 5, “my goal was to be the undisputed champion … Canelo was my ticket to the big fights.”

Asked about the grave threat of Beterbiev, Bivol said, “Every time I train, I think my opponent is the most dangerous opponent I’ve ever met in the ring. Of course he’s dangerous. (Look at) his record. But I love challenges. I love to be tested. And this is a huge challenge.

“I believe in my skills, my experience, my mentality (and) in my (preparation in) camp. I will be undisputed.”

Afterward, Hearn gave voice to the impression Beterbiev left by minimizing his words and treating his younger countryman as an apprentice not capable of defeating the master.

“I think (Beterbiev’s) arrogant,” Hearn said. “We’re here to talk about the fight.”

Not doing so, perhaps, was Beterbiev’s message that he’s used to having things play out his way. But at age 39, against the peaking champion who wants to declare it’s his time now, is Beterbiev about to become the latest self-anointed “king” to find out Bivol wants his crown, too?

“I told Dmitrii at the face-off, ‘Take him to school,’” Hearn said. “Bivol’s special. It’s going to be a hard fight. It should be when you’re fighting for the undisputed championship.

“But Dmitrii does his talking in the ring. He’s extra special.”

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