By Chris O’Neill
Light-heavyweight contender Artur Beterbiev returned to action on Friday night (23 December), with an emphatic first round stoppage win over the brave but ultimately over matched Paraguayan Isidro Ranoni Prieto.
After an electrifying start to his career in the professional ranks, where he recorded impressive stoppage wins over former IBF light-heavyweight champion Travoris Cloud and one-time WBA champion Gabriel Campillo, momentum had slowed somewhat for former World Amateur boxing champion Beterbiev in 2016. With the light-heavyweight division attracting considerable attention in recent months, Beterbiev provided a timely reminder of his place in what is quickly becoming one of the busiest and most competitive weight divisions in the sport.
Beterbiev has only been taken past the fourth round once, and things looked ominous for Prieto right from the opening bell. A short right hand from the Russian dropped Prieto a mere thirty seconds into the first round. Beterbiev continued to walk Prieto down, with several more hard right hands finding the target and stiffening his opponent’s legs.
The end came with only 15 seconds of the first round remaining, with referee Michael Griffin calling a halt to proceedings after Beterbiev pinned his opponent in the corner. Unleashing a barrage of unanswered shots Beterbiev again dropped the Paraguayan to the canvas, signalling an end to the contest. Beterbiev becomes the first man to stop Prieto, who went the distance with fellow light-heavyweight contender Eleider Alvarez in 2015.
It is difficult to draw much in the way of conclusions from such a comfortable night’s work. Beterbiev has previously shown signs of a slightly stiff upper body and a lack of head movement. He also has a tendency to occasionally neglect his usually excellent footwork in favour of simply following opponents around the ring. The Russian’s handlers would have been hoping that the previously durable Prieto would provide Beterbiev with that much needed commodity for the boxing prospect, namely multiple rounds in a professional ring to allow them hone their craft further.
Nonetheless, this represents yet another impressive indicator of the Russian’s substantial power. Beterbiev’s finishing flourish was made possible by a stinging overhand right after his opponent had sought the safety of the clinch – normally a difficult place for a fighter to generate any kind of meaningful power shot.
Watch the FULL FIGHT in the box above
With Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev eyeing up a rematch of their bout last month to establish division supremacy, and lineal champion Adonis Stevenson appearing set to face his mandatory challenger (the aforementioned Alvarez), 2017 may come too early for a title challenge for Beterbiev.
However, in an era where fellow amateur standouts Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk challenged for belts within 10 professional fights, Beterbiev’s level of opposition will in all likelihood continue to be progressed quickly, as he turns 32 in January. Much has been made of a potential match-up with compatriot Sergey Kovalev (Beterbiev holds a win over Kovalev from their time in the amateurs) but a lucrative fight with fellow Quebec resident Jean Pascal appears to make sense at this stage in both men’s careers. So too does a match-up with the winner of the rumoured Chad Dawson versus Andrzej Fonfara fight next year. With thudding power in both hands and a willingness to press the action for every minute of every round, Beterbiev has a fan friendly style to match his obvious talent, and can look forward to an exciting 2017 in one of the sport’s hottest divisions.