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Ten rounds while wondering while this weekend takes us one step closer to Katie Taylor-Amanda Serrano II …
10. How important is the undisputed title to Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol? That’s likely what will determine if that fight will happen in 2023—or ever. In the aftermath of his knockout win over Anthony Yarde last weekend, Beterbiev called for a showdown with Bivol.
“I want Bivol,” Beterbiev said. “Right now, it’s everything. In that fight, we’ll have four belts. It’s a really good fight I think.”
In a statement to SI, Vadim Kornilov, Bivol’s promoter, says Bivol is eager for the fight. “This is becoming one of the biggest fights that can happen in boxing,” says Kornilov. “They have cleaned out the division between the two of them and there is not many more intriguing matchups out there. Let’s make it happen.”
There’s no doubt Beterbiev-Bivol is a marquee fight, but it faces multiple issues. Timing is one. Beterbiev, a Muslim, will observe Ramadan between mid-March and mid-April, pushing his next fight until the summer. Bivol prefers to fight earlier, with a potential rematch with Canelo Alvarez looming in September.
Then there is money. Beterbiev-Bivol is a big fight. But it’s not a money fight. Bivol earned in the neighborhood of $5 million in each of his last two fights, wins over Alvarez and Gilberto Ramirez. He will expect at least that much, if not more, to face Beterbiev. Similarly, Beterbiev will expect a purse in the low seven figures to put his titles on the line against Bivol.
The reality is the money is not there. Not in the U.S., where neither is a significant draw. Not in Canada, where Beterbiev lives and trains. A Beterbiev-Bivol fight would draw a strong crowd in Montreal, but the live gate would not come close to generating the money needed to support that fight. And as good a fight as it is, it dies on pay-per-view. And no major fights will be sanctioned in Russia as long as it is at war with Ukraine.
The best chance Beterbiev-Bivol has of happening is if a Middle Eastern country, either Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, steps in and foots the bill. They have before; the Saudi’s have put on two fights featuring Anthony Joshua and Bivol defended his title last year against Gilberto Ramirez in Abu Dhabi. Perhaps a Beterbiev-Bivol fight will pique their interest.
If it doesn’t, the fight won’t happen. Not in ’23, and perhaps not ever. Beterbiev is likely headed towards a mandatory title defense against Callum Smith, the former 168-pound champion. Kornilov and Golden Boy officials have discussed a Bivol-Jaime Munguia fight, which is an attractive U.S. show. It’s a disappointing but unfortunate reality of the business.
9. Gilberto Ramirez and Gabriel Rosado are progressing towards a deal for the two to meet in a light heavyweight matchup in March, sources told SI. Ramirez (44-1) is coming off a decision defeat to Dmitry Bivol last November. Rosado (26-16-1) has lost three fights in a row since an upset win over Bektemir Melikuzievin in 2021 and will be making his debut at light heavyweight. Rosado, 37, is back training with Freddie Roach for this fight and believes the reunion with Roach will have him prepared for the volume punching Ramirez.
“I know Zurdo very well,” says Rosado. “We have sparred each other for the last four years. He was my main sparring partner when I beat [Melikuziev]. He’s a great champion, strong, big guy. It’s just one of those fights where I see the drama. I see the action in that kind of fight. It’s one of those fights I know I have to come in at my best. I can’t half-ass it. I feel like right now is the time to fight him.”
8. There remains optimism that contracts can be finalized soon for the anticipated showdown between Ryan Garcia and Gervonta “Tank” Davis, sources told SI. But the two sides have hit a snag in the last few days which has required additional work. A source close to Garcia told SI the lingering issue was connected to a rematch clause. Both sides are continuing to work, with the hope that they can resolve the issue over the next few days.
As for Davis’s upcoming hit-and-run trial, scheduled to begin in mid-February, Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya told SI he has been assured the outcome will not impact the timing of the fight.
“I don’t know details of the trial,” says De La Hoya. “But we have been assured everything will be OK. We’ve been assured that there is a green light. Ryan Garcia-Gervonta Davis will happen on April 15th.”
7. Speaking of Davis-Garcia, I’m told that both fighters are enrolled in the Voluntary Anti-Doping Program. Garcia was tested on Jan. 5, a sample that came back negative, according to a letter from VADA that was obtained by SI. Garcia and his trainer, Joe Goossen, have relocated from southern California to Miami to prepare for this fight.
6. Deontay Wilder needs to stop. In a recent interview with ESNews, Wilder was asked for a prediction for the planned heavyweight title unification fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk. “That’s a 50-50 fight for me,” said Wilder. “You just never know until you get in there. Depends on who’s going to cheat the hardest. That’s what it is, it depends on who’s going to cheat the hardest.”
Wilder’s comments are embarrassing. He’s gone down a rabbit hole of conspiracies since the first loss to Fury, accusing Fury of doctoring his gloves and his own trainer, Mark Breland, of spiking his drink. Now he’s attacking Usyk, a former Olympic gold medalist with no history of cheating. I’ve spent plenty of time with Wilder over the years. I’ve been to Alabama. I’ve done lengthy interviews with him at the SI offices in New York. I’ve always considered him a man of high character. But this is beneath him and if he continues he will find his own reputation irrevocably tarnished.
5. If you needed more evidence that sanctioning bodies are either corrupt or incompetent, check out the WBA’s welterweight rankings from December. Sitting at No. 14 was George Ashie, a fringy junior welterweight contender who had fought once above 140-pounds before last Saturday’s knockout loss to Alexis Rocha. Rocha, a career-long welterweight who was riding a five-fight winning streak heading into the fight with Ashie, was not in the WBA rankings. It’s an inexplicable—and indefensible—decision that should tell you just how much stock you should put in these ratings.
4. Amanda Serrano will attempt to become Puerto Rico’s first undisputed champion—male or female—when she challenges Erika Cruz for 126-pound supremacy. The stakes, though, at least financially, are even bigger: Representatives for Serrano and Katie Taylor are closing in on a deal for Taylor and Serrano to meet in a rematch this spring. If Taylor-Serrano can’t be finalized, Alycia Baumgardner, who will fight for the undisputed 130-pound championship on the Serrano-Cruz undercard, is the leading candidate to face Taylor.
3. Speaking of sanctioning bodies behaving badly, WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman told reporters this week that Bivol needed to apply for an exemption if he wanted to face Beterbiev for the WBC belt. In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, the WBC has prohibited fighters from Russia and Belarus from fighting for any its titles.
This is, of course, absurdly hypocritical. Beterbiev is Russian. He has dual citizenship in Canada but he was born in Dagestan and represented Russia throughout his amateur career. The idea that he is less Russian because he lives in the Montreal area is absurd. By the WBC’s logic, if Bivol went out and became a citizen of, say, Fiji, he would be clear to fight for a WBC belt. Or if he leaned into his Korean heritage. The hypocrisy is maddening.
2. Shoutout to Tom Loeffler, who is quickly becoming one of the best club show promoters in boxing. Loeffler held one of his Hollywood Fight Night cards at Quiet Cannon Country Club in Montebello, Calif. last weekend and it was terrific. Serhii Bohachuk, a once-beaten 154-pound contender, scored a knockout win over Nathaniel Gallimore in the main event of a competitive card. Club shows are the lifeblood of boxing; it’s where young fighters can stay active, build a resume and, most importantly, make money. Loeffler and Lou DiBella, who has been running club shows in New York for years, are two of the best at it.
1. If you missed the David Benavidez-Caleb Plant press conference on Thursday, you missed a lot. There’s no love lost between Benavidez and Plant, PBC stablemates who have been circling each other for years. Plant made repeated references to cocaine use—a not-so-subtle jab at Benavidez for testing positive for cocaine in 2018, a result that led to him being stripped of his super middleweight title—while security twice stopped Benavidez from advancing on Plant at the podium. This fight is ticketed for March 25th on Showtime Pay-Per-View, and it will be a good one. A meaningful one, too: The winner will have a compelling argument to face undisputed super middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez, either in the second half of ’23 or the first half of next year.