Fully recovered from surgery on his right shoulder, Artur Beterbiev is now ready to test its knockout power against Ezequiel Maderna as he resumes his pursuit of a 175-pound world title.
After nearly a year out of the ring, the 31-year-old Russian slugger returns Saturday night to face Maderna at Bell Centre in his adopted hometown of Montreal (ESPN, 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT).
Artur Beterbiev (9-0, 9 KOs) gained a seventh-round stoppage of southpaw Alexander Johnson in Chicago last June to put himself in line for a title elimination bout to become a mandatory challenger against world champion Sergey Kovalev.
But while training for his scheduled November title eliminator against Igor Mikhalkin, Beterbiev injured his shoulder in October and underwent surgery shortly thereafter.
“The injury really slowed Artur down, because he was just about ready to fight for the mandatory title position to face Sergey Kovalev,” promoter Yvon Michel said. “But Artur is still on the verge of being a world champion, and will fight his way back into the top of the rankings starting [Saturday night]. We’re looking for him to make a strong statement against Maderna.”
Beterbiev, who is trained in Montreal by Marc Ramsay, has needed just 26 rounds to finish off his nine professional opponents, with Johnson being the first to make it past the fourth round. And the two-time Russian Olympian is ready to pick up where he left off before his injury.
“The shoulder is perfect now. We haven’t talked anymore about it in the gym for about two months now,” said Beterbiev, who weighed in at 174.2 pounds Friday. “I have looked at video of Maderna with my coach, and he is a former Olympian, which means that he is a very solid fighter.”
Ezequiel Maderna (23-2-0, 15 KOs) presents a formidable challenge for Beterbiev, although he has been inactive even longer than his unbeaten opponent has. The 29-year-old Argentine, who competed in the 2008 Olympics, earned a first-round TKO of countryman Rolando Mansilla in May 2015 in his only bout since October 2014.
Maderna’s only losses have come by decision at 168 pounds against legitimate contenders Edwin Rodriguez in March 2013 and Thomas Oosthuizen in November 2013, both of whom were unbeaten at the time (Oosthuizen still is) and are now also competing at 175 pounds.
However, this will be Maderna’s first time competing above 168 pounds since weighing 171½ in December 2010 for his 12th professional fight: a second-round TKO of Richard Emanuel Moray Martinez.
“I’ve worked very hard in preparation for this fight,” said Maderna, who weighed in at 175 pounds Friday on his second attempt. “My goal is to fight a perfect fight that will be very important to my professional future.”
While Maderna has never been stopped in his career, Beterbiev has been a wrecking ball in his first nine bouts, gaining quick knockouts of former world champions Tavoris Cloud and Gabriel Campillo along the way, to quickly establish himself as a legitimate 175-pound title contender.
“I have never been out of the ring for a whole year as an amateur or professional, so I can’t wait to fight,” Beterbiev said. “Like we can see in [Maderna’s] two losses to Rodriguez and Oosthuizen, he is always very competitive, but I feel like everything is going perfectly during my comeback.
“The principle objective is to perform well at every fight and to win, but when you can add a knockout to your performance, that is much more than welcome.”
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