Artur Beterbiev survives brutal cut to knock out Marcus Browne and retain WBC and IBF light heavyweight world titles

Despite blood running down his face from round four onwards, Artur Beterbiev retained both his world titles and his record of being the only active world champion with a 100% knockout rate by stopping ‘Sir’ Marcus Browne in round nine.

The result moves Beterbiev to a perfect 17-0 career record with 17 knockouts, with Browne dropping to a mark of 24-2 (16KO).

IN THE RED CORNER – ARTUR BETERBIEV

Beterbiev entered this fight defending two belts, having won the IBF world light heavyweight title with a 12th round stoppage of Enrico Koelling back in 2017. After knocking out Callum Johnson and Radivoje Kalajdzic, Beterbiev collected the WBC version of the crown by knocking down Oleksandr Gvozdyk three times in round 10 and having the fight waved off.

Ranked #1 in the Ring Magazine light heavyweight rankings, Beterbiev would likely be hoping to beat fellow top 10 ranked fighter Browne and go on to unify the division.

IN THE BLUE CORNER – MARCUS BROWNE

Challenger Browne entered this contest ranked #6 on the Ring top 10 list and looking to get back on a career winning streak. Browne opened his career with 23 straight victories, capped off with his most notable win to date when he beat former two-weight world champion Badou Jack by unanimous decision in 2019.

Browne faced another former world champion in the form of Jean Pascal next up, but was knocked down three times and lost a technical decision when the fight was stopped in round eight due to a clash of heads.

Browne bounced back from the defeat by outpointing Denis Grachev in Los Angeles to set up this opportunity. There was a new face in Browne’s corner for this world title challenge, with Derrick James having been hired ahead of the fight. James currently trains Jermell Charlo and Errol Spence and was looking to make Browne the third unified world champion in his stable.

IT’S SHOWTIME

Browne started the fight energetically, snapping out jabs and moving around on his toes as the tassels on his red, white and blue shorts danced under the lights. Dressed in all black, Beterbiev stepped forward repeatedly but when he backed his opponent into a corner, Browne was able to duck and sidestep away from danger in what was a good opening round for the challenger.

In a composed opening to the fight, Browne continued to fight behind the jab and landed several punches in the first clinch of round two before referee Michael Griffin separated the pair. The American challenger looked to be executing his game plan to perfection in the early stages of the fight, jabbing on the move and managing to escape from the corner when backed against the turnbuckle.

“You need to let your hands go,” were the stern words of trainer Marc Ramsay to Beterbiev between rounds in response to the Russian being outworked by Browne in the early going.

Beterbiev applied pressure and landed a couple of early blows in round three, while Browne continued to jab and threw three right hooks before grabbing onto the champion in a clinch. The Russian kept coming forward and backed Browne into corners but the jab of the challenger continued to score through the guard of Beterbiev.

When attempting to trap Browne in the corner, the lead foot of Beterbiev was treading on the toes of Browne, likely looking to impede lateral movement away from the impending assault. Referee Griffin stopped the fight briefly to give Beterbiew a verbal warning about the repeated infringement.

Round three ended with Beterbiev’s best offensive output of the night, with the Russian backing Browne onto the ropes and landing several heavy blows.

The corner of Beterbiev implored their man to throw more punches to the body in between rounds and praised his defensive performance before sending the champion out for round four.

Browne was backed into the corner early in the round, before lowering his head and fighting his way out. During a close quarters exchange, the pair butted heads and referee Griffin paused the fight due to a sizable cut opening up on the forehead of the champion that was gushing blood.

Griffin ruled the clash an unintentional head butt before resuming the fight with Browne also having suffered a cut during the clash.

The cut seemed to raise the aggression level of Beterbiev, with the champion continuing to stalk Browne and landing with more punches as the challenger bobbed and weaved on the ropes. Following the advice of his corner, Beterbiev landed a crashing right hand to the body and later connected with a three-punch salvo with Browne’s back against the turnbuckle.

As they frantically tried to stem the bleeding, the corner of Beterbiev warned their fighter to stay focused on tactics over emotion and repeated their advice to attack the body more often.

When the bell rang for round five, referee Griffin delayed the start and requested the ringside doctor check on the cuts of both fighters. “One more round,” said the doctor to Griffin before the fight continued, with Beterbiev now knowing the fight could go to the scorecards if stopped due to the accidental nature of the collision. With the fight even after four rounds on this author’s scorecard, the possibility existed that the contest had now turned into a one round shootout.

Beterbiev immediately applied front foot pressure and closed the distance on the challenger, while Browne resumed his strategy of circling the ring and firing out jabs to keep the champion at bay.

Referee Griffin threatened to take a point from Beterbiev for repeatedly stepping on the toes of Browne with his lead foot, before the Russian found his range and ended the round with a flurry of punches while Browne was pinned on the ropes.

It was a case of more than “one more round” as referee Griffin allowed the fight to go on without consulting the doctor in round six. Beterbiev stalked Browne and fired out a piston like jab before following it up with powerful right handed blows. Browne leaned forward and grabbed onto a clinch, with the blood pouring from Beterbiev’s face onto the back of the challenger.

His face now a mask of crimson, Beterbiev was penetrating the guard of Browne more frequently and ended the round by staggering the challenger with a flurry of blows against the ropes.

The forward steps and the flowing blood were both becoming constants for Beterbiev as the Russian walked Browne onto the ropes to open round seven only to receive a counter hook. The relentless Beterbiev closed the distance again and this time rocked the head of Browne with vicious blows.

Browne circled to the left only to be floored by a combination of a left hook to the body and a right hand to the face. Browne rose at the count of eight but carried little offensive threat for the remainder of the round as Beterbiev continued to pour on the punishment.

After regaining his composure in the corner, Browne came out for round eight in determined fashion, holding his ground in the middle of the ring and exchanging hooks with the champion. Beterbiev soon gained ground and pushed the challenger back, spending the remainder of the round landing potshots as Browne circled the ropes, intermittently firing back punches that were mostly blocked.

Referee Griffin visited the corner of Beterbiev between rounds but allowed the fight to continue despite the never ending stream of blood from the champion’s forehead. Browne threw two hooks to begin round nine only for Beterbiev to respond with heavier blows of his own. The punches were now snapping the challenger’s head back and Beterbiev forced Browne into a corner where he sank to a knee after a barrage of punches.

As Beterbiev skipped on his toes in a neutral corner, a kneeling Browne looked at referee Griffin with a pained expression as the official counted to 10 and waved off the fight.

WHAT THEY SAID

When speaking to ESPN in the ring after the fight, Beterbiev described the adversity of fighting through the cut as “another experience in my career, I’m happy to win” before thanking the fans who came out to support him.

In response to the question of what was to come next, the world champion joked “a night of good sleep” before expressing his desire to fight “the best” the division had to offer.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE WINNER

There are two likely paths for Beterbiev as he looks to pursue “the best” opposition, with one being a potential unification bout against fellow Russian and WBA world champion Dmitry Bivol. Another fight down the line could be a mega money showdown with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, with the super middleweight king having recently shown his desire to move up in weight class.

WHAT NEXT FOR THE LOSER

Browne could well feel like he has reached a crossroads in his career having gone 1-2 in his last three fights after a barnstorming start to his career. The American has shown the ability to compete at the top level with his win over Jack and would be a strong test for the British duo of Callum Smith or Joshua Buatsi if he looks to face another top 10 fighter next up.

Author’s Scorecard (round by round)

Ber-Bro

Rd1: 9-10

Rd2: 18-20

Rd3: 28-29

Rd4: 38-38

Rd5: 48-47

Rd6: 58-56

Rd7: 68-64

Rd8: 78-73