Jerwin Ancajas to defend his IBF world title against Ryuichi Funai Saturday night - while Stockton-native Gabe Flores Jr. fights Brazil’s Eduardo Pereiria.
By Bill Tibbs
Artur Beterbiev is set to make the 2nd title defense of his IBF light heavyweight title in his first fight of 2019.
The IBF light heavyweight titleholder is set to fight Radivoje Kalajdzik on May 4 in Stockton, California, on ESPN. The powerful Russian, who resides in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, recently inked a promotional deal with Top Rank Boxing and is looking to deposit some signature wins in the bank that could lead to some big fights at 175-pounds against the division’s other champions. The light heavyweight class is stocked with some great possible opponents for Beterbiev like WBO champion Sergey Kovalev, WBC champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk and WBA ruler Dmitry Bivol.
Also on the Stockton card will be Jerwin Ancajas who will defend his IBF, 115-pound title against Ryuichi Funai in the co-feature. Also, undefeated, Stockton-native Gabe Flores Jr. will be a featured attraction on the show.
Beterbiev is considered one of boxing’s biggest punchers and has dispatched all 13 of his opponents so far. After turning pro in Montreal in June of 2013, after only 5 fights, Beterbiev turned some heads when he stopped former world champion Tavoris Cloud. Then after registering 5 more wins, at only 11-0, he won the IBF light heavyweight title by stopping Enrico Koelling in Fresno, California in November of 2017. He made the 1st defense of his title almost a year later in October of 2018, stopping Britain’s Callum Johnson in Chicago.
And, now Beterbiev looks to light up the ESPN audience with another KO in his 2nd title defence in his 14th bout. With the promotional issues that had plagued him the last couple of years behind him, Beterbiev will also look to get busier. This will only be Beterbiev’s 5th bout in the last 3 years and an undefeated champion needs to be busier than that if he plans to expand his brand and land the big fights in the division.
But, Beterbiev’s premiere selling feature, besides being a title-holder, is his concussive power that he has in both hands. He has the kind of strength that can turn a fight around with one punch and as a result he will always be a fan favourite. And, while promotional ties can often slow up negotiations for a unification bout, other light heavyweight champions like WBC champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk or WBO champion Sergey Kovalev both work with Top Rank so they are fights that could be put together without too much difficulty.
If Beterbiev can put in another impressive performance in Stockton don’t be surprised to see him in with another of the division’s belt holders later this year and this is good news for boxing fans. With tough and talented champions like Kovalev, Bivol and Gvozdyk waiting in the wings, there could be some exciting unification action in the light heavyweight division before long.