Artur Beterbiev eager to defend 175-pound title Saturday vs Callum Johnson

Undefeated Canada-based Russian slugger thinks making a big statement in Chicago could lead to unifications against fellow titleholders Adonis Stevenson, Dmitry Bivol and Eleider Alvarez.

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Beterbiev vs Maderna highlights: June 4, 2016

IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev is poised to stake a claim to a prime position in the wide-open 175-pound division, joining other champions like Adonis Stevenson, Dmitry Bivol and Eleider Alvarez.

Beterbiev (12-0, 12 KOs) makes his first title defense against England’s Callum Johnson (17-0, 12 KOs) this Saturday night in Chicago.

Alvarez won his title by knocking out Sergey Kovelev in the seventh-round on the same card that Bivol earned his second title defense with a unanimous decision over Isaac Chilemba.

The 33-year-old Beterbiev shares trainer Marc Ramsay with Alvarez, and promoter Yvon Michel with Alvarez and Stevenson.

“Every fight is a statement fight, and this will give Artur a chance to make a big statement by defeating a young, fresh guy … who can hit, is willing to fight, and who will use all of his boxing skills to generate offense and take chances against Artur,” Ramsay said.

Beterbiev won the title with his two-knockdown, 12th-round KO of Enrico Koelling last November.

“They say you’re as good as your last fight, and everyone thought Koelling was only going to last two rounds. But I warned Artur about Koelling’s tight defense and I was right,” Ramsay said. “Koelling felt a little power, and after the first round, pulled back and only tried to survive. It’s hard to work with somebody who doesn’t want to fight at all, but this fight with Johnson will be the complete opposite.”

Beterbiev wants unification bouts against Stevenson and Bivol and Alvarez if he beats the 32-year-old Johnson, who is coming off a 91-second TKO of Frank Buglioni in March.

But Beterbiev wants Stevenson first.

“I have tremendous respect for Stevenson being that he’s almost 41 years old and he’s a long-reigning champion, but of all of the champions, I’d like to fight Stevenson, first,” Beterbiev said.

“Bivol is good boxer and I want to fight him and beat him also. I can’t talk about the strengths or weakness in Alvarez—that’s our coach’s job. For now, I’m focused on Johnson anyway.”

Ramsay won’t soon encourage a clash between Beterbiev and Alvarez, who are “respectful, professionally, to one another,” having sparred sparingly during the first couple of years of the former’s professional career.

“I really believe that we can unify all of the titles, and I would like for Artur to be in one against either Stevenson or Bivol in December or January,” Ramsay said. “At the end of the day, I don’t’ think either Stevenson, who only has the left hand, or Bivol can handle Artur’s pressure.”

Beterbiev recorded a fourth-round TKO of Ezequiel Maderna in 2016, rebounding from a 2015 surgery on his right shoulder.

The surgery put off a potential title shot aginst then-unified champion Kovalev—whom Beterbiev defeated en route to winning a silver medal at the 2007 World Amateur Championships before taking gold at the same event two years later.

“I can’t think about what did or didn’t happen in the past because I’m fighting a good, undefeated boxer in Johnson, and I’m approaching this like he’s the best fighter I’ve ever faced,” Beterbiev said.

“Of course, I’d like to get the knockout to be able to come out of the ring saying, ‘I’m the best because I knock everyone out.’ But the truth is that I don’t go in there looking for the knockouts, I just go in with the goal of performing at my best.”

For a closer look at Artur Beterbiev, check out his fighter page.

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