Boxing fans have been dreaming of a fight between light heavyweight champions Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol for years. The dream fight is now a reality as the bout is set for June 1 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Turki Alalshikh announced the fight during an appearance on "The MMA Hour" on Saturday.
Beterbiev holds the WBC, IBF, and WBO world titles. The Russian-born fighter competes out of Canada, a fact that is relevant to one of the reasons the fight has not materialized in recent years. With a 20-0 record, Beterbiev won the IBF title in November 2017 with a knockout over Enrico Kolling. Three fights later, Beterbiev added the WBC title with a stoppage of Oleksandr Gvozdyk.
Following two successful defenses of his two titles, Beterbiev lifted the WBO title off of Joe Smith Jr. in June 2022. He has since defeated Anthony Yarde and Callum Smith. No opponent has been able to go the distance with Beterbiev, who holds a rare perfect record with every win by stoppage.
WBA champion Bivol is also undefeated, with a record of 22-0. A more tactical fighter than Beterbiev, Bivol has won half of his fights by stoppage, utilizing superb technique to often box circles around opponents.
Bivol won the interim title against Felix Valera in May 2016. The Valera fight was Bivol's seventh professional outing. After twice defending the interim title, Bivol was promoted to world champion after Badou Jack vacated the title.
Bivol has successfully defended his world title 11 times, including a May 2022 win over pound-for-pound great Saul "Canelo" Alvarez.
Like Beterbiev, Bivol is a Russian-born fighter. Unlike Beterbiev, Bivol still resides in Russia. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the WBC banned Russian fighters from competing for their titles. The sanctioning body continued to hold that stance whenever the subject of Bivol vs. Beterbiev was raised, with the ban serving as one of the main sticking points to making the fight prior to now.
That hurdle now appears cleared and one of the most intriguing fights in boxing will stand out as a highlight of the middle of 2024 for the sport.