Artur Beterbiev (11-0, 11 KOs) says he’s signed a contract to face Germany’s Enrico Koelling on July 29 in Quebec City, Canada. This will be an IBF light heavyweight eliminator bout with the winner becoming the mandatory challenger to IBF champion Andre Ward. Beterbiev, 32, says the venue and the date of the fight could change in the future. The two-time Russian Olympian Beterbiev is currently in the process of splitting with his promoter that he’s been with since he turned pro in 2013.
Beterbiev is ranked #2 by the International Boxing Federation and his opponent Koelling is ranked No.5. Koelling was the first contender in the IBF’s top 15 rankings that was willing to face Beterbiev in the IBF 175 pound eliminator fight after Sullivan Barrera pulled out of his fight with Beterbiev.
The 27-year-old Koelling fought in the 2012 Olympics for Germany. Koelling has won his last 7 fights since losing to Mirco Ricci by a 12 round unanimous decision in September 2014. Koelling doesn’t have much punching power to speak of. He’s more of a technical boxer than a puncher.
Koelling is going to have his hands full with a devastating slugger like Beterbiev. In Koelling’s last two fights, he’s beaten Ryno Liebenberg. Koelling won a close 12 round split decision over Liebenberg in their first fight last October. Koelling then fought Liebenberg a second time in beating him by another close 12 round decision in the rematch last February. What we learned in those two fights is that Koelling is barely better than the 33-year-old Liebenberg.
Beterbiev needs to get back in the ring and resume his boxing career. He was out of action for a year from June 2015 to June 2016 due to a shoulder problem. Beterbiev came back last December and destroyed a very good fighter in Isidro Ranoni Prieto by a 1st round knockout. Beterbiev was hoping to get back into the ring after that, but his opponent Sullivan Barrera decided not to take the fight with him. That was a fight that negotiated and had gone to a purse bid.
Beterbiev and his promoter spent time in putting that fight together. It’s too bad that it didn’t take place.
If Beterbiev beats Koelling, it will mandate that he get a title shot against the IBF champion. That doesn’t mean that the current IBF champion Andre Ward will agree to fight him. Besides the IBF belt, Ward also holds the WBA and WBO titles. If Ward decides he doesn’t like the idea of fighting Beterbiev, then he can vacate the IBF title and still hold the WBA and WBO belts. I suspect that’s what we’re going to see happening. I don’t think Ward will take the Beterbiev fight because it’s not one big money fight like his scheduled rematch with Sergey Kovalev. If Ward vacates the IBF title, then Beterbiev could wind up fighting Kovalev potentially. That would be a great fight, even if he’s coming off of another loss to Ward from their rematch in June.
Here’s Beterbiev’s statement on his Instagram:
“My dear friends, fans and supporters, I am happy to announce that today I signed the IBF contract to fight Enrico Koelling of Germany. As you are well aware of, the winner of this bout will become a mandatory challenger for the IBF light heavyweight title and I can’t wait to get in the ring against such a great opponent. Also, to avoid any confusion, the acceptance of this fight does not affect in any way the legal proceedings that are currently under way with GYM, which will follow its course separately. As per the IBF contract, the IBF/USBA World Title Eliminator will be held in Quebec City on July 29th, 2017. However, the place and day of the fight might change. I hope you will all support me in this crucial fight. I wish you all the best!”
Beterbiev sounds pretty excited about the Koelling fight.
If Beterbiev can knockout Koelling in style, it would be a nice win, because the German fighter has never been knocked out before during his career. Beterbiev would show the boxing world that he’s got the power and the skills to KO top fighters and not just the second tier guys that he’s been beating since he turned pro 4 years ago. Sullivan Barrera would have been an even better choice of opponent, but there’s nothing Beterbiev could do about that due to the Cuban fighter pulling out of the fight. Right now, Beterbiev needs to beat Koelling and try and do it in style so that he can continue to add fans to his growing fan base. Beterbiev doesn’t have the luxury to take his time in slowly building to a title shot because he got off to a late start kin his pro career because of his long amateur career in Russia. It’s unfortunate that Beterbiev waited as long as he did to turn pro because he would likely already be a world champion by now.