When he entered the Madison Square Garden ring, Artur Beterbiev (37) will have the label of ultra-favorite attached to his back. Among the bookmakers, the WBC-IBF light heavyweight champion (-79.387 kg) has odds of 9 to 1 to unify the world titles against the American Joe Smith (32 years old, 1.83 m, 28 wins, including 22 before the limit, 3 losses), holding WBO, next night at Madison Square Garden in New York (live on beIN Sports 1 at 3 p.m.). His 17 victories before the limit in as many fights are surely a reason.
“I see Artur winning before the limit, says Christian Mbilli. Smith is not of the same stamp. » Number 3 WBC super middleweight (-76.203 kg), the Frenchman knows Beterbiev well, since the two men share the same coaches in Montreal, Quebecers Marc Ramsay and Samuel Décarie. But, although they are of a similar weight, they do not put the gloves together. “In Canada, it’s not like in France, explains Mbilli. Artur has remarkable power, so Marc isn’t too fond of him putting on the gloves with his boxers. He had tried, but it had gone badly for them. Marc prefers to bring in sparring partners from outside that he pays. »
Beterbiev is the only world champion of the seventeen categories to have won all his fights before the limit. “It is his nature to be powerful, notes Mbilli. He was already an amateur. He lifts as much weight as a heavyweight. He has exceptional physical condition. All his blows are powerful, even without doing it on purpose. He damages the hands of the coaches when they give him the lesson. »
“With him, the slightest blow hurts”
Himself very powerful, Mbilli (27 years old, 1.74m, 21 wins, including 19 before the deadline, 0 d.) found himself twice against Beterbiev. “For technique, without pressing the blows too hard, he remembers. We had worked on the blows to the body, the movements, the sequences. I had been very suspicious. With him, the slightest blow hurts. » Like Mbilli, who arrived in Montreal in 2017, Beterbiev turned professional with Canadian promoter Yvon Michel.
Born in Dagestan (Federated Republic of Russia) to a nurse mother and a bus driver father, the WBC-IBF champion, of Chechen origin, came to boxing at the age of 8. 2006 and 2010 European amateur champion and 2009 world champion, beaten in the quarter-finals (by the Ukrainian Usyk, current WBA-WO-IBF heavyweight champion) of the 2012 Olympic Games, he moved to Montreal in 2013 with his wife and their two children (2 other children have since been born in Canada).
If Beterbiev, naturalized Canadian, under contract with the American promoter Bob Arum since 2019, beats Smith, he could finish unifying the world titles against the WBA holder, the Russian Dmitri Bivol (31 years old, 1.83 m, 20 v. , 0 d.), winner of the Mexican Canelo Alvarez last month. “Canelo came from super middleweight, recalls Mbilli, but Artur is a real light heavyweight. And, in addition to his power, he has a very good technique. It’s a phenomenon. »
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