Artur Beterbiev fits in well with the best light heavyweights ever, claims trainer John Scully

Artur Beterbiev fits in well with the best light heavyweights ever, claims trainer John Scully

Artur Beterbiev fits in well with the best light heavyweights ever, claims trainer John Scully

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03: Artur Beterbiev speaks during the press conference ahead of his January 28 light heavyweight championship unification bout with Anthony Yarde at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on December 3, 2022 in London, England.  (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

Unified light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev is one of the best light heavyweights in a long time, his assistant trainer John Scully said. (Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images)

John Scully, former fighter, current trainer and longtime boxing stalwart, answers a question about Artur Beterbiev, the undefeated light heavyweight champion who has won all 18 of his fights by knockout, by asking a question about heavyweights.

How would Beterbiev, Scully asks, compare to some of the great light heavyweights in boxing history? The light heavyweight division has had some of the best fighters in the history of the sport, so it’s pretty cool to be considered among the top 175-pounders ever.

“Go to someone who has watched boxing and talk about the great heavyweights of the 70s. [Muhammad] Ali, [Joe] Fraser, [Ron] Lyle, George Foreman, [Ken] Norton — and ask them to compare today’s heavyweights to those guys, you’ll get a predictable answer,” Scully told Yahoo Sports. “They’ll go, ‘Oh, no, no, no. There is no comparison “. They’ll look at you like you’re crazy.

“But let’s be honest here: You’re telling me this [reigning lineal champion] Tyson Fury Couldn’t Beat Ken Norton? Correctly? So when people think of the light heavyweights of the 70s, it’s almost like they’re off limits. It’s like they won’t even allow you to compare anyone from today to them. But as tough as Matthew Saad Muhammad was, you’re telling me he could take five, six or seven of Artur’s punches in a row? [like he did from many of the stars of the ’70s]?”

The late 1970s and early 1980s were a great era for lightweight boxing, with fighters such as Saad Muhammad, Michael Spinks, Marvin Johnson, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Mike Rossman, Victor Galinez and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, among others, at or near the top of the section.

Scully, who will work in Beterbiev’s corner as an assistant coach under Marc Ramsey on Saturday in London when Beterbiev defends his belts against Anthony Yarde on ESPN+, believes Beterbiev doesn’t get the respect he deserves.

Ukraine's Oleksandr Usyk, left, competes with Russia's Artur Beterbiev during the men's heavyweight 91 kg quarterfinal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012, in London.  (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

(LR) Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk fights Russia’s Artur Beterbiev during the men’s heavyweight 91-kg quarterfinal boxing match at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

“Arthur is right up there with any of these guys,” Scully said. “Size-wise, certainly power-wise and technique-wise, I’d say he’s in the top tier in terms of boxing skills and all that stuff. I think he’s up there with any of those guys.”

The problem most modern fighters have when comparing themselves to fighters of the past is the urban myth. Boxing was bigger 40 years ago than it is now, and most divisions were deeper. But the athletes and their training methods have improved so much over the years and so it’s unfair to ignore it.

Beterbiev, whose last loss came at the 2012 Olympics at heavyweight (201 pounds) to current heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, doesn’t care much for attention or rankings. He doesn’t watch boxing in his spare time and doesn’t really care what people have to say about him

He will never answer a question in five words if he thinks two words are enough.

He does not inspire passion or enthusiasm when he is interviewed. Asked about Yarde, he said, “He’s strong with experience against a lot of top pros. I prepare 100 percent for every fight, and that’s what I’ve done for Anthony Yarde.”

OK then. To want to watch him, you have to already know about him, and that’s the prerogative of the die-hard fan, of whom there are far fewer than there were in, say, the 1970s or 1980s.

But boxing still has its fair share of elite athletes, and Beterbiev is one of them. Yard, of course, knows what he’s up against.

“If you look at what he’s accomplished so far, it’s amazing and that’s what drives me,” Yarde said.

Beterbiev doesn’t get too strong until the bell rings. Scully said Beterbiev doesn’t care what the fans or the media think of him, but he has one goal driving him: He wants to be the undisputed champion and hold three of the four major belts. If he can face Dmitry Bivol, who holds the WBA belt, sometime this year, he will have a chance to win the undisputed championship.

Bivol is getting a lot of attention in boxing circles because he defeated Canelo Alvarez last year and Alvarez is one of the big names in the sport. But Scully said it would be a mistake to underestimate Beterbiev. To defeat Beterbiev, it will take a special opponent, Scully believes.

“It’s hard to find a weakness in him,” Scully said. “He’s beaten big, aggressive guys like Joe Smith, slick, fast fighters like Marcus Browne and technical fighters like [Oleksandr] Gvozdyk,” Scully said. “He’s handled every style, pretty much, that we’ve seen. I would think that, in general, you’re not going to get past him. If there was any chance you could beat him, you’d have to be a guy he couldn’t hit. You’d have to be really superior defensively to beat Artur because you can’t trade punches with him and not be affected by it.

“Andre Ward, I think, stylistically would be difficult for him. Really, Andre might be a little bit smaller than Artur because Artur is really a big light heavyweight. He fought at 201 as an amateur. His strength is like a heavyweight weight. His strength is off the charts. But Andre was smart and knew how to cancel certain things, so I think Andre would match up with Arthur stylistically.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 18: Artur Beterbiev punches Joe Smith Jr during their light heavyweight title fight at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on June 18, 2022 in New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 18: Artur Beterbiev punches Joe Smith Jr during their light heavyweight title fight at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on June 18, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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