In this corner with Russ Anber: 'A serious beast' and 'an outstanding warrior'
Photos: Russ Anber Instagram
In his latest column, Russ Anber gives his view from the corner on IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev’s destruction of Radivoje ‘Hot Rod’ Kalajdzic and a fight week meet-up with the legendary Yaqui Lopez…
The win against Kalajdzic was a great fight for exposing Beterbiev and the type of firepower he has to the American public. It wasn’t what you’d call a stylistic performance – perhaps Artur even lost his head a little bit at times, but that was because he didn’t feel threatened. He could tell that ‘Hot Rod’ was very respectful of his power and he also realised 'Hot Rod' wasn’t gonna hurt him.
That’s why he threw caution to the wind and just went after him.
A few times Artur took some risks and chances that he probably shouldn’t have taken but it made for great television. Bob Arum loved it, he thought it was great!
I haven’t seen the telecast because I was in the corner, of course, but from what I’ve heard, Andre Ward, who was broadcasting, kinda got what Beterbiev is about - apparently he said something along the lines of: “this is pure power boxing” and he’s spot on. This fight was quite simply a case of Beterbiev utterly overpowering an opponent who had no answer for the firepower coming back at him.
While he was in there ‘Hot Rod’ was barely surviving. He showed a lot of heart though - there were several times he looked like he was out on his feet and he still made an effort and swung for the fences. A couple of times he even caught Artur in exchanges but Artur has a good chin. Finally the referee came in and rescued him because he was getting hurt more and more each round.
In terms of where Artur goes next, after the fight he called out all the other title holders. He’s not interested in just regular fights - he wants the best guys in the division and he wants to unify. Kovalev is one of them and Artur wants Kovalev bad!
It would be great to see Artur land some of these big fights. I’ve been in his corner for every one of his professional fights from day one and fully believe he can prove himself the best light heavy out there. I have to give credit to his coach Marc Ramsay who had the vision to originally scout him from the amateurs. For some reason he slipped through the cracks and none of the big promoters saw what Marc saw in him. Marc told me from the start: ‘Russ, I’ve got a guy and you’re gonna love him! He’s your style of fighter!’
Sure enough when all the immigration issues were sorted out and Artur got over to Montreal he certainly was my kind of fighter! He exploded on to the scene in a manner that few fighters have recently, perhaps the only comparisons are Lomachenko and Usyk. He quite simply obliterates his opposition with that debilitating power he has. He is definitely somebody to be wary of if you’re a manager of a light heavyweight. You go into a fight with Beterbiev you’re going into a very dangerous situation.
Interestingly enough, Artur almost has a split personality. In the gym he’s a pleasure to work with. He’s one of those rare guys that you have to stop from training. He always wants to do more. He’s a very hard trainer who works very hard at what he does and he’s super strong in all aspects – from boxing skills to lifting weights to his power of course.
However, when it gets to fight week the usual happy-go-lucky, smiling Artur turns into an obsessed serious beast that is ready to unleash when the bell rings.
That’s exactly what happened in Stockton before the Kalajdzic fight. He was very quiet all week, he didn’t have too much to say. Then when that bell rang, holy smokes he just tore out of there and all that pent-up frustration of being quiet all week and making weight and so on was unleashed in those first five rounds.
He’s not been as active as he should have been so I think that was another reason he was keen to impress. Funnily enough, the last time he appeared on a Top Rank show was when he won the title against Enrico Koelling back in 2017, which was also in California. He stopped Koelling in the 12th and final round and during the fight everyone was saying: ‘where’s this destructive machine everyone has been talking about? Where’s the punching power?’
After that fight we said to Artur: ‘what did you wait so long for?’ and he said: ‘I just wanted to see if I could go 12!’ And as soon as he reached the 12th he got the guy out of there! Now he knows he can go 12 and he just wants to go out there and get things over with as soon as possible!
Another highlight of my time in Stockton for the Beterbiev fight was meeting up with the great Yaqui Lopez. Yaqui runs a gym out there called Fat City Boxing Club, in honour of the famous 1972 John Huston movie with Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges which was based in Stockton.
We went and visited Yaqui in the gym and he didn’t even know there was a fight on that weekend in Stockton. We told him: ‘Yaqui, you’re coming to the fight! We’re inviting you and getting you tickets!’ Myself and John Scully and Pete Susens from Top Rank went up to visit him and he was really excited to go the fight.
We also invited him to the weigh-in. They even introduced him on the dais and when Bob Arum found out he was there he came over and hugged him and he was beaming from ear to ear. He was so happy to see Yaqui again. It was a great reunion, everyone was taking pictures of him.
I’m proud I was sort of the architect of that and Yaqui was very appreciative. Afterwards he called me and very emotionally said: ‘Russ, I’m 68 years old and no one has done something like this for me before’. He had a great night and I’m glad to have played a role in making a guy feel happy, particularly when it’s a guy I consider one of the greats. I mean, look at what Yaqui did in the ring and the opposition he faced – he came up short in terms of winning a world title but he fought everybody, including John Conteh, Matthew Saad Muhammad – twice! - Victor Galindez, Michael Spinks and so on. He fought a who’s who of the light-heavyweight division at perhaps its strongest point in history.
Yaqui really was an outstanding warrior, he’s still trim and looks great and what a classy gentleman he is! He gave us a tour of his gym, brought us up to his office and showed us his press clippings which he keeps in wonderful albums and which cover his career from his amateur days to the pros.
He’s a real proud man and he easily would have won a world title today – it’s impossible that he wouldn’t have had a title today! What a guy!
Russ Anber is on Twitter and Instagram @russanber.
Russ was speaking to Luke G. Williams