After 17-month layoff, Artur Beterbiev 'ready to perform' vs. Adam Deines

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·4-min read

Artur Beterbiev might be the best boxer you never heard of. He’s a two-time Olympian and a unified world champion who is not only undefeated, he’s scored each of his 15 professional victories by knockout.

He fought seven times in his first 18 months as a pro, but has fought only eight times in the following six-plus years. It’s hardly a way to build a name for oneself.

“I am not just by myself, I have a team,” Beterbiev said. “I have a promoter and a manager, so we all work together. I don’t understand why I can’t fight more often.”

He’ll be back in action on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN+) when he defends his IBF-WBC light heavyweight belts against Adam Deines in Moscow.

The Deines fight was on and off for much of last year, but Beterbiev said he stayed busy.

“In 2020, I didn’t miss a week of training,” he said. “I trained all year long. I do that because I want to fight and I hope that in 2021 [I’ll fight more regularly].”

He is an entertaining light heavyweight to watch, even if opponents may not be so crazy about standing head-to-head with him. His last bout may have been his most impressive, a 10th-round stoppage of Oleksandr Gvozdyk on Oct. 19, 2019 in Philadelphia. Beterbiev put Gvozdyk down three times in the bout.

PHILADELPHIA, UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 19, 2019: IBF belt-holder Artur Beterbiev of Russia (L) and WBC titlist Oleksandr Gvozdyk of Ukraine compete in a light heavyweight world title unification boxing fight at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; Beterbiev won the bout. Valery Sharifulin/TASS (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
Artur Beterbiev (L) knocked out Oleksandr Gvozdyk to unify light heavyweight world titles on Oct. 19, 2019 at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. (Photo by Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images)

The biggest question facing him against Deines, a 30-year-old German who is 19-1-1 with 10 KOs, will be how quickly he’ll be able to regain his form. Deines hasn’t exactly been facing fierce opposition as he has made his way to the fight with Beterbiev.

He lost a decision to unbeaten Fanlong Meng in Macau on June 1, 2019. Since then, he has scored KOs of fighters with a 1-0 record and a 10-12 record. That somehow earned him a championship shot against one of the best fighters in the world.

Given he’s been training so diligently, sometimes fighters leave their best game in the gym.

Beterbiev, though, insists he is not concerned about that.

“I have had a lot of experience with these kinds of long layoffs, unfortunately, and so I know how to deal with them,” he said. “I feel like there is no question that you will see my best self [on Saturday]. I am ready to perform.”

He’s a massive -4000 favorite at BetMGM.

Beterbiev wants Canelo fight: 'He's so interesting'

If, as expected, he gets past Deines, a big fight would be one against Canelo Alvarez, the pound-for-pound champion who is in the midst of attempting to become the undisputed super middleweight king.

Alvarez faces unbeaten Billy Joe Saunders on May 8 for the WBA-WBC-WBO 168-pound belts. If he wins, he plans to meet IBF champion Caleb Plant in the fall.

Alvarez told Yahoo Sports last month that his team had reached out to Beterbiev’s about a fight in 2019. Beterbiev said that if Alvarez is still interested, he’d be eager to test himself against the sport’s top fighter.

“He is a very interesting fighter and I would be interested in facing him because he is technically very good and he is so interesting,” Beterbiev said. “It would be no problem on my side if there a chance to make that fight. I would like to take it. That would be the kind of fight I want.”

It’s the type of fight that would lift the sport. Beterbiev is the kind of fighter who could help lift the sport. He’s charismatic and talented, powerful and determined.

He figures to add to his knockout total against Deines, and then has plenty of potential big fights to come, including against Alvarez and unbeaten Dmitry Bivol. Joe Smith Jr., who faces Maxim Glasov next month, would make another big fight for him.

“I want to get active and keep fighting regularly,” Beterbiev said. “The more [fights] the better.”

More from Yahoo Sports: