By Marc Livitz: Artur Beterbiev essentially pummeled Enrico Koelling for almost 36 full minutes on Saturday night in a clash for the vacant IBF light heavyweight title at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California. The light heavyweight battle between the two former Olympians was a grab for one of the championship belts made available with the recent retirement of lineal top dog Andre Ward.
Beterbiev (12-0, 12 KO’s) jabbed from the opening bell and looked to set angles as well as time his punches against Kolling. 27 year-old Enrico (23-2, 6 KO’s) moved swiftly on his back foot in an effort to keep his hard punching Russian opponent at arm’s length. He was a tad more aggressive in the second with a few jabs and hooks, yet as soon as he let up, “King Artur” was on the attack once again. The 2008 and 2012 Olympic athlete used a hard jab to split the high guard of his Berlin adversary. Koelling’s face was beginning to turn a bright shade of red as the capacity crowd in attendance began to let their dissatisfaction echo in a cascade of boos throughout the third. Beterbiev continued to back him up with hard jabs and right hands.
Enrico Koelling didn’t appear to have the energy to fight back to any great affect and the fact that Beterbiev’s punches were likely sapping it from him likely played a huge part as the bout passed its one third point. Artur’s expansive amateur background includes two wins over Sergey Kovalev and Koelling was helping him appear to be close in effort to his Russian counterpart. As he continued to split as well as hook around his German opponent’s guard, a one sided affair was beginning to pile on with relative ease. The pattern continued through round six.
Beterbiev kept his activity levels high as the contest entered its second half. By the time the seventh was underway, Koelling had been hit almost 150 times and had landed less than 40 in return. The vocal disdain continued from a crowd eager to see its hometown hero, Jose Ramirez compete in the night’s main event. Beterbiev entered the ring with a perfect knockout/win ratio, yet the bout seemed to be inching closer to a landslide decision. Combinations landed with ease for Artur, who seemed fresh as the contest entered round nine. Koelling looked worn out yet somehow not quite worn down. No one really seemed to know what Enrico was waiting for in his attempt for a world title.
Koelling’s lone defeat prior to Saturday’s contest was a decision loss in early 2015 and his first outing in the United States appeared to be heading towards the second. The final third of the contest was largely uneventful. Many had expected Beterbiev to already be back in the locker room, clean and showered before round twelve reared its head. This would be his first trip to the last period, yet there appeared to be no urgency to protect his record with a twelfth knockout to go alongside career win number twelve.
However with a minute to go, a barrage of punches forced Koelling to take a voluntary knee for the bout’s first knockdown. A right hook on the 2:33 mark dropped Enrico for a second time, after which referee Lou Moret waved the contest to a halt. With the win, Artur Beterbiev captured the vacant IBF light heavyweight title.
Additional Results from Fresno
Alex Saucedo KO 3 Gustavo David Vittori - Light Welterweights
Amir Imam KO 4 Johnny Garcia - Welterweights
Maxim Dadashev KO 4 Clarence Booth - Junior Welterweights
Fernando Fuentes UD 6 Vislan Dalkhaev - Super Bantamweights
Evan Torres SD 4 Quilisto Madera – Middleweights
Bryan Lua UD 4 Eric Rodriguez - Lightweights