Artur Beterbiev faced more adversity in Friday’s IBF/WBC 175-pound title defense against slick-boxing southpaw Marcus Browne than perhaps at any time in his career. The following night, David Morrell dropped and stopped Alantez Fox in a fourth-round TKO victory.
Here’s the lowdown on both bouts.
The Russian-born Beterbiev trailed on two of the three judges’ cards and struggled to see through the mask of crimson while bleeding profusely from a gash in the middle of his forehead caused by a third-round clash of heads that also cut Browne over his right eye.
A ringside physician granted Beterbiev “one more round” before the fifth, having examined the damage to both fighters and allowed their bloodbath to continue. Beterbiev would have lost a split decision had the fight been stopped with four completed rounds.
“One thing you can’t account for is accidental fouls, and Brown had won two if not all of the first three rounds,” said BoxingScene.com’s Corey Erdman, who served as ringside commentator for ESPN Plus. “So when the clash of heads happened, and the doctor told Beterbieve he had one more round, things got dramatic really quickly.”
Beterbiev (17–0, 17 KOs) responded by flooring Browne (24–2, 16 KOs) once each in the seventh and final rounds of a ninth-round knockout at Bell Centre in Montreal, halting the southpaw for the first time in his career.
“We won this fight. This is another experience in my career. I have two world titles,” said Beterbiev, whose previous bout in March was a one-knockdown, 10th-round TKO of Adam Deines, a southpaw who entered at 19–1–1 (10 KOs). “I am happy I had the opportunity to give the great fans of Montreal a memorable championship fight.”
In victory, Beterbiev secured the fifth defense of a crown won in November 2017 by career-high 12th-round knockout of Enrico Koelling, who entered at 23–1 (6 KOs) but was floored twice and stopped for the first time.
“Beterbiev is traditionally a slow starter who can lose early rounds while still applying pressure. He’s losing rounds but not control of the fight because he always finds a way to hurt his opponents,” said Erdman. “I think if Beterbiev didn’t turn it on the way he did in the fourth and show that he could win rounds despite the cut, the fight might have been stopped, and we’d be having a different conversation right now.”
In Browne, Beterbiev faced the most adversity since his initial defense in October 2018 against Callum Johnson, when he rose from a second-round knockdown to secure a fourth-round stoppage.
Johnson entered at 17–0 (12 KOs) and had scored three of his previous four consecutive knockouts in the first round, but Beterbiev scored first- and final-round knockdowns to stop the Englishman.
“I showed what the courage that I already knew I had,” Beterbiev told Zenger. “I already knew I had courage, and I simply continued to demonstrate the focus and composure of a great fighter.”
Beterbiev’s past victories include second-round knockouts of former champion Tavoris Cloud and previously unbeaten Jeff Page in September and December 2014. In April 2015, Beterbiev scored a fourth-round stoppage of left-handed former champion Gabriel Campillo (April 2015), and, in 2016, fourth- and first-round KOs of Ezequiel Osvaldo Maderna (June) and Isidro Ranoni Prieto (December).
Cloud entered at 24–2 (20 KOs) and Page at 15–0 (10 KOs), Maderna was 23–2 (15 KOs) and Prieto, 26–1–3 (22 KOs), with both being stopped for the first time in their careers.
Beterbiev won twice in 2019 with fifth- and 10th-round knockouts of Radivoje Kalajdzic and Oleksandr Gvozdyk in May and October. Kalajdzic entered at 24–1 (17 KOs) and hit the deck once in the third round, and Gvozdyk at 17–0 (14 KOs) was floored three times in the 10th as Beterbiev added Gvozdyk’s WBC crown to his IBF version.
“When you watch Beterbiev fight, it just feels inevitable that he’ll get to his opponents and stop them, which he has done 100 percent of the time,” said Erdman. “So when he was in the most danger he’s ever been in, in terms of losing against Browne, it didn’t fully register with me at the moment.”
Beterbiev has his sights on Canelo Alvarez (56–1–2, 38 KOs), who rose two weight classes in November 2019 for an 11th-round knockout of then-WBO 175-pound titleholder Sergey Kovalev to become a four-division champion.
Alvarez did so in sensational fashion, knocking the “Crusher” literally to his knees, senseless, out cold and sagging against ring ropes that held him up.
With last month’s two-knockdown 11th-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Caleb Plant (21–1, 12 KOs), the 31-year-old Alvarez added Plant’s IBF crown to his WBA/WBC/WBO versions to become the first undisputed 168-pound champion from Mexico.
“Canelo executed a smart fight against Kovalev. That was a good win for him,” Beterbiev said. “Everybody agrees Canelo has the pedigree to be named the best boxer pound-for-pound. That’s why I want to challenge Canelo Alvarez. Nothing personal.”
Does Beterbiev’s knockout streak continue against Alvarez?
“The objective is never to KO someone. The target is the win and a good performance. The KO is just the conclusion of a good work. But I don’t want to talk about how I can beat Canelo — I just want to do it.”
If not Alvarez, Beterbiev would consider Russian WBA counterpart Dmitry Bivol (19–0, 11 KOs) or the WBO’s Joe Smith (27–2, 21 KOs) of Long Island, New York, who battles Callum Johnson (20–1, 14 KOs) on Jan. 15.
“Barring an Alvarez fight opening up, the best fight at light heavyweight is Beterbiev-Bivol,” said Cliff Rold, boxing historian at BoxingScene.com. “Beterbiev-Smith might be easier to make, but its winner is also probably easier to predict.”
Beterbiev just wants to fight.
“All are good choices. I am open to fighting the other champions in my division,” Beterbiev said. “I hope that my promoter is able to strike the deal that is the best for me.”
Morrell Nabs Fourth-Round Win Over Fox
Cuban David Morrell describes his talents as “a mixture of my four favorite fighters — I’m talking about Mike Tyson, Roy Jones, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran.”
Morrell (6–0, 5 KOs) displayed those skills en route to scoring his third-straight stoppage on Saturday night against 6-foot-4 Alantez Fox (28–3–1, 13 KOs) of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, flooring the 6-foot-1 southpaw in the fourth and final round of a TKO in his third WBA 168-pound title defense at The Armory in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Morrell’s sharp jab, masterful counterpunching, and body work, along with a slugger-aggressor mentality, were the difference against Fox, whom he dropped with a head-bobbling short left hook in the fourth before mercilessly blasting him with several unanswered blows. Fox’s father and trainer, Troy, stepped onto the ring apron as referee Mark Nelson stopped the fight with 54 seconds left in the round.
“I was just listening to my team and following their instructions. We were just working our strategy in there just like we do in the gym,” said Morrell, who had an exemplary 135–2 amateur record and turns 24 in January.
“They told me to let my hands go, so I did. Fox didn’t have the power to keep me off of him. So I knew that I had to take advantage of it. I felt comfortable and that made it easy for me.”
Fox represented Morrell’s first bout with trainer Ronnie Shields, also the corner man for undefeated WBC 160-pound champion Jermall Charlo, having previously worked with the father-son tandem of Sankara and Adonis Frazier, who have trained Minneapolis-based former welterweight champion Jamal James.
Morrell returned to the site of his pro debut in August 2019, when he weighed 171.25 pounds for a 65-second TKO of Yendris Rodriguez Valdez. Morrell followed that up in November of that year with a two-knockdown second-round stoppage of Quinton Rankin. A southpaw who entered the fight with a 15-6-2 (12 KOs), Rankin had five months earlier gone the eight-round distance with left-handed former champion Chad Dawson.
Morrell’s next fight in August 2020 was a title-winning 12-round unanimous decision over Lennox Allen, who entered at 22–0–1 (14 KOs). His first defense was a one-knockdown, third-round knockout of Mike Gavronski in December 2020.
“I love fighting here in Minnesota,” said Morrell, who returned to the Armory for his last fight in June, a first-round knockout of 6-foot-1 Mexican Mario Cazares, who entered at 12–0 (5 KOs).
“This is a great opportunity to fight in front of my fans here. It really motivates me. I respect everybody in the super middleweight division, but I want to fight all of them. I’ve got this belt right now, and I’m open to fighting any of them. They just have to step up.”
Morrell follows Cuban expatriates such as southpaws Erislandy Lara and Guillermo Rigondeaux as well as Yuriorkis Gamboa who have become multi-division titleholders.
“Most people that know Cuban boxing think this is the best kid to ever come out of Cuba. The first time I laid eyes on David Morrell Jr., I saw a bigger, better Vasiliy Lomachenko. I really believe he will take over the super middleweight and light heavyweight divisions,” said Warriors’ boxing promoter Luis DeCubas of Morrell, who was nicknamed “O.D.” by one of his trainers.
“David has perfect timing and great footwork, and he can crack. David has Sonny Liston-type hands. He has fast hands, even though he’s a thumper-type of guy. The kid is special. He can punch and take a punch. He’s like a Sugar Ray Robinson type of fighter and a nice-looking kid on top of it. He is going to be a star of the highest order in boxing.”
Information on who Morrell might face next was not available as of this posting.
Edited by Kristen Butler and Matthew B. Hall
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