Artur Beterbiev v Anthony Yarde: The world champion travels to London with a fierce reputation

Artur Beterbiev has 18 fights and 18 knockouts
Place: OVO Arena, Wembley Date: Saturday 28 January
Coverage: Follow live text coverage and reaction on the BBC Sport website and app from 21:00 GMT

Artur Beterbiev is the only world champion in boxing who has a 100% knockout rate.

To the fans, he is known as a ruthless operator who would rather talk in the ring. To his opponents, he is a bewildering powerhouse, untouchable and seemingly unfazed by every fighter he has ever faced.

For his team, he is continually overlooked as a pound-for-pound great. To his critics, he is something else entirely.

On Saturday night, he defends his WBC, WBO and IBF light-heavyweight titles against British challenger Anthony Yarde.

BBC Sport takes a look at the man behind the outrageous rumour.

What makes Beterbiev a special fighter?

In the ring, Beterbiev is known as a ruthless finisher. All 18 of his opponents have wilted under the pressure, and only once has Beterbiev been taken to the 12th round in his professional career. It took Beterbiev two rounds to stop rival champion Joe Smith Jr last summer.

He also has a formidable amateur record, losing just five times in 300 matches. But his trainers say there is no secret formula to Beterbiev’s power.

“He’s not looking for the knockout,” trainer Marc Ramsey said.

But former light-middleweight champion Hannah Rankin points out that Beterbiev should not be considered a one-punch knockout artist.

“He wears opponents down and eventually the punches take their toll. It accumulates,” Rankin said.

“He slows people down. And he’s got a great chin. I’ve seen him take some big punches and go right through them and throw back his own.

“He has this steadfast mindset where he’s immovable. That’s how he comes across. That’s where his monster reputation comes from.”

Russia looms large over Beterbiev in London

Beterbiev was born in Russia but has lived in Canada for more than a decade. He gained Canadian citizenship in 2022 and was able to bypass moves from boxing at the time to stop Russian fighter jets competing after the invasion of Ukraine.

He fought for Russia throughout his amateur career. Despite efforts by his team to distance him from Russia, the political undertones remain.

Beterbiev has been pictured several times with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has been accused of a litany of human rights abuses.

Kadyrov is a strong supporter of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and can often be seen with fighters such as UFC star Khamzat Chimaev.

Beterbiev traveled to meet Kadyrov last June after his last match to celebrate with him, posting about it on social media.

Last October, Beterbiev wrote a lengthy Instagram post about his connection with Kadyrov, celebrating him, saying: “I’m proud [Kadyrov] is directly related to my career.”

Kadyrov is banned from entering the US and Canada and continues to use fighters like Beterbiev to promote his image. This week, Beterbiev refused to answer questions from the Guardian newspaperexternal link about Kadyrov.

Beterbiev has not spoken publicly about the war in Ukraine, but at the press conference on Thursday, Ukrainian world flyweight champion Artem Dalakian decided to sit on the challenger’s side of the top table, so that he would not be sitting in front of the picture of Beterbiev.

Can Beterbiev be defeated?

According to Rankin, Beterbiev has no weaknesses. According to Yarde, there is no hope that his opponent – who turned 38 last week – could be in decline.

Beterbiev’s assistant trainer John Scully revealed his fighter had no idea who Yarde was until he met him in London in December at the first media event.

But Beterbiev says he has treated Yarde as seriously as any other opponent.

“I have a couple of strategies, but I can’t tell you,” he said.

“As a boxer, he’s a good challenge for me. He has a good professional career, he’s had good fights. I’ve prepared for him like anyone else.”

Beterbiev’s confidence is understated but obvious. When asked if he feels any pressure, he replied: “No, I’m good.”

But Yarde believes Beterbiev’s confidence could work against him. And Rankin believes it’s Beterbiev’s confidence in his ability to take a shot that could open the door for an upset.

“Beterbiev is open to being hit,” said Rankin – Britain’s Callum Johnson knocked Beterbiev down when they fought in 2018.

“Yarde is a big puncher and has more hand speed, he can be very explosive. If Yarde can get going he can apply the pressure.”

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