Artur Beterbiev (14-0) strengthened his status as one of the world’s top light heavyweights and a worthy foe for Sergey Kovalev with a fifth-round stoppage of Radivoje Kalajdzic (24-2) in the main event of the Top Rank card in Stockton, California, which aired on ESPN on Saturday night.
It was Beterbiev’s 14th stoppage victory in 14 fights.
“I want [a] unification fight if possible,” said Beterbiev, who entered the ring without entrance music.
He did not mention Kovalev by name, but they’re both Top Rank fighters under Bob Arum, so a future matchup seems likely. But Beterbiev should have options in one of boxing’s most competitive divisions. Oleksandr Gvozdyk ended Adonis Stevenson’s six-year reign last year. Marcus Browne, who is undefeated, earned a unanimous decision over Badou Jack in January. Dmitry Bivol is undefeated, young and special, too.
But Beterbiev owns a 2-0 record over Kovalev in the amateur ranks. Their history would anchor a fascinating buildup to their first meeting as pros.
Beterbiev displayed his power in the win over Kalajdzic, scoring a knockdown in the third round before getting the finish in the fifth. Beterbiev, however, said he’d hoped to showcase more of his boxing skills in the win.
“Tonight, I’m not happy for my fight,” he said after the win. “Maybe my opponent didn’t give me [a] chance to show more of my technical side. Maybe it’s my fault.”
Kalajdzic, who quit boxing a few years ago because of a debilitating condition, stayed active and courageous throughout the fight. He even landed a hard right hand in a wild exchange in the fourth round, but Beterbiev was too strong.
Ancajas stops Funai in the seventh round
Despite his three-year reign as the IBF’s junior bantamweight champion, Jerwin Ancajas (31-1-2) faced questions about his standing in the division following last year’s draw over Alejandro Santiago.
But Saturday’s stoppage victory over Ryuichi Funai (31-8), who fought for the first time outside Japan, should quiet any doubts about Ancajas’ staying power. He outboxed Funai in a fight in which both boxers refused to leave the center of the ring.
That strategy helped Funai’s street cred. He’s incredibly tough, but his refusal to fight at a distance also cost him the fight as Ancajas landed most of the punches he threw. In the fourth round, Ancajas hit Funai with a series of straight right hands, uppercuts, hooks and punishing body shots but couldn’t stop the ambitious Japanese fighter.
The punishment continued, however, until the ref asked the doctor to assess the condition of a worn Funai at the start of the seventh round before ultimately deciding to stop the bout.
To alleviate the distractions he’d blamed for subpar performances in his recent fights, Ancajas consulted the playbook of every boxer desperate to refocus. He isolated himself, moving his camp to a military base in the Philippines.
There, the Filipino sensation who has spent the bulk of his career being compared to Manny Pacquiao, limited his interactions with friends and family members.
He entered Saturday’s fight prepared to prove a point. He did that in a fun and thrilling effort.
Flores Jr. impresses home crowd with third-round knockout
The crowd in Stockton, California, roared when hometown product Gabriel Flores Jr. (13-0), entered the ring before his third-round knockout of Eduardo Reis (23-6). Flores’ bout, scheduled for six rounds, was the main event locally.
The 19-year-old lightweight started fast before finishing Reis with a hard left hook in the third round and maintaining his unblemished record. After the fight, his voice cracked as he talked about his mother, who died in 2012 after she was hit by a stray bullet during a birthday party.
“A lot of people came out,” Flores said after the fight. “I love ya’ll.”