By John J. Raspanti
IBF light heavyweight champion Arthur Beterbiev and Callum Johnson went mana-a-mano Saturday night at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Ill.
Johnson floored the heavily favored Beterbiev in the second round, but the Russian’s power was to much as he dropped Johnson twice en route to an explosive fourth round knockout.
Beterbiev, who recorded his 13th knockout in 13 consecutive wins, met Johnson in the center of the ring in the opening stanza. Both men jabbed and looked for something bigger to land. Beterbiev let his hands go.
Seconds later, as Johnson languished on the ropes, a huge right hand sent him collapsing to the canvas. The UK fighter beat the count and was happy to hear the bell ending the round.
Johnson (17-1, 12 KOs) went back to pressing the action in round two. His strategy appeared to be pretty simple. Kill or be killed. Another right hurt him. Both fighters fired powerful hooks. Johnson caught Beterbiev with a right that didn’t bother him. A follow-up left did, sending Beterbiev to the canvas for the second in his career. The champion got up but wobbled near the ropes. Johnson stalked but didn’t pull the trigger. Beterbiev fought back and moved away, clearing his head.
In round three, Johnson, 33, ran into an uppercut. The heavy-handed Beterbiev, also 33, unloaded a combination. Johnson, with a cut near his right eye, battled back. Both fighters connected with left hooks. Beterbiev ate a right hand. Johnson’s pressing was effective, but Beterbiev, as he would soon prove, is dangerous.
Round four started fast with both fighters unleashing hooks. Johnson continued to counter with short hooks. Beterbiev stepped in with a hard jab. Johnson was bleeding from his nose. Beterbiev landed a crushing right off the temple that sent Johnson crumbling to the canvas. The previously undefeated Johnson tried desperately to get up, but his legs wouldn’t respond.
The time was 2:36 of round four.
"I came close in that second round but the better man won and he finished the job off, so fair play to him,” a disappointed Johnson told Sky Sports after the fight.