With just 11 fights under his best, Russian two-time Olympian Artur Beterbiev (11-0, 11 KOs) has emerged as perhaps the biggest threat to unbeaten IBF/WBA/WBO light heavyweight champion Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KOs) in the division today. Ward, 32, has recently gone back to his former mauling/manhandling style that he used in the past, and he’s finding new success with that fight approach with his recent narrow 12 round unanimous decision win over 175lb champion Sergey Kovalev last November.
Beterbiev is waiting to fight the winner of the Ward-Kovalev rematch, and he presents a formidable challenge to either of them, in particular Ward. Beterbiev is an inside fighter, who not only is well suited to the inside game, but he also possesses knockout power at close range. That’s something that Ward doesn’t have in his game.
Beterbiev is stronger on the inside than Ward, and he’s not someone that can be mauled easily by anyone. While it’s likely that Ward will come up with strategy to negate Beterbiev’s close range punching power, it’s not likely that he’ll find success against the Russian unless he finds a time warp to take him back to 2009, when he was more capable of using movement around the ring.
Beterbiev has the punching power to hurt Ward at medium range. If Ward chooses to keep the fight on the outside, which may prove to be impossible, he’s still going to need to deal with Beterbiev’s crushing shots. Ward can avoid some of them, but not all of them. Beterbiev only needs a handful of his power punches to start busting up his opponent’s faces.
Ward is like someone that has trick and he’ll go back to that trick again and again, because it’s worked for him in the past. I’m talking about his inside mauling. Even if Ward wants to stop fighting on the inside, I think he’ll still do it against Beterbiev, because that’s been his No.1 style for so long. It’s what gets him out of trouble when he faces fighters with punching power. We saw Ward use his mauling against Kovalev, Carl Froch, Arthur Abraham, and Mikkel Kessler. When Ward uses that style against Beterbiev, it’s going to leave vulnerable.
Beterbiev knocked out Isidro Ranoni Prieto in a 1st round knockout last month on December 23 in Quebec, Canada. This was a fighter with better hand speed than himself, and Beterbiev had no problems defeating him.