With the recent departure via retirement of Andre Ward and with Adonis Stevenson coming towards the end at age 40, the light-heavyweight division needs a new star to come along to light up the weight class. Fortunately, there are two 175 pounders who are, between them, either already holding a major belt or set to challenge for one very soon.
And both of these unbeaten and hard-hitting light-heavyweights come from Russia. Dmitry Bivol (born in Krygyzstan and relocating to Russia at the young age of 11) is the WBA champ, and he showed again on Saturday night in Monaco – with his first-round icing of Trent Broadhurst – how hard he hits and how ruthless he is.
While Artur Beterbiev (born in Russia but now living in Montreal, Canada) who will face Enrico Kolling for the vacant IBF title this Saturday, is looked at as one of the single hardest punching fighters in the world today pound-for-pound.
Beterbiev is a huge favourite to win on Saturday and join Bivol as a reigning light-heavyweight champ. Bivol, the younger man by six years at age 26, is, like Beterbiev, a fighter who enjoyed a fine amateur career and the two Russian bangers who between them are still just 23-0 at pro level aim to dominate their division for the years to come. It’s debatable who is the better fighter of the two – Beterbiev has yet to be taken the distance, Bivol having the experience of going the full 12-rounds on one occasion; both fighters still in need of the stiff tests – but between them, these two may well take care of their weight class for some time.
A clash between the two could of course be very, very big in due course; if both men indeed become champions and remain undefeated, but in the meantime the two highly skilled, tough and dangerously powerful light-heavies are taking on each and every big fight they can get their hands on. Bivol has called out Sullivan Barrera, while Beterbiev, should he take care of business against the once-beaten Kolling, will be an avoided fighter no more (hopefully).
The WBO and Ring Magazine light-heavyweight belts are currently vacant, but by this time next week both the WBA and IBF belts should be in the able hands of two explosive and exciting warriors from Russia. How much collective excitement might the two provide the sport and their weight division with in the months, even years, to come?