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Sports Undefeated world champion boxer Beterbiev embraces life in Montreal

03:39  08 december  2021
03:39  08 december  2021 Source:   montrealgazette.com

Montreal boxing champ Artur Beterbiev makes weight by a whisker

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The relationship began over dinner — just the three of them. Boxer Artur Beterbiev spoke no English. Trainer Marc Ramsay, no Russian. So, an interpreter was required.

Light-heavyweight world champion Artur Beterbiev works with trainer Marc Ramsay at Ramsay's gym in Montreal on Dec. 1, 2021, in preparation for his coming fight. © Provided by The Gazette Light-heavyweight world champion Artur Beterbiev works with trainer Marc Ramsay at Ramsay's gym in Montreal on Dec. 1, 2021, in preparation for his coming fight.

Beterbiev, a promising Russian amateur who captured gold at the 2009 world championships and reached the quarter-final round at the 2012 Olympics, was seeking to emigrate to Germany, the U.S. or Canada. Ramsay, Canada’s leading boxing mentor, wanted an international star about to turn pro for his increasing stable of fighters, but worried it was nearly impossible to influence someone from the former Soviet Union.

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Somehow, things clicked that night and Beterbiev believed Ramsay’s sales pitch that numerous world titles were possible.

“It was hard to understand each other at the beginning, but we both had the same vision — nothing less than a world championship,” Ramsay told the Montreal Gazette this week during an interview at his north-end gym. “I knew a lot about him. I knew his transition to pro would be easy. He was winning as an amateur with a pro style — rough, with power.

“You can be a good coach,” added Ramsay, who has trained former world champs David Lemieux and Jean Pascal. “But if you don’t have the horse to win the race, you’re never going to win with a donkey.”

Beterbiev, who turned pro in 2013, won the vacant International Boxing Federation light-heavyweight title in November 2017, against Enrico Kölling. He added the World Boxing Council’s 175-pound crown 23 months later, dethroning champ Oleksandr Gvozdyk.

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Beterbiev, 36, has fought only 16 times — and not at all in 2020 following a rib injury and after testing positive for COVID-19 — but has never lost and never failed to stop an opponent. If he’s not a household name in Montreal, it’s because he hasn’t fought here since 2016.

A homecoming of sorts will occur Dec. 17, when Beterbiev puts his titles on the line against American Marcus Browne (24-1, 16 KOs) in the 12-round main event at the Bell Centre. Also on the card is Montreal boxer and Marie-Eve Dicaire, challenging for a world title. Kim Clavel was also supposed to challenge for a title but pulled out due to an injury.

Beterbiev, the youngest of four boys, began boxing at age 8, seeking an outlet for his endless energy. Born in the Republic of Dagestan, his parents ensured there was always food on the table and a roof over the family’s head.

Once he realized his potential, Beterbiev’s sole focus was to win a medal at the Olympics. His father, a bus driver, was killed in a 2001 car accident. Less than a year later, Beterbiev was invited to an Olympic boxing college in Moscow, 2,000 km to the north. His mother, a nurse, insisted he attend to get his mind off his father’s death and also because she realized her son would receive an education, lodging and meals. Following that experience, a move to Montreal didn’t seem so onerous, although it provided some challenges with language and culture.

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Beterbiev, who learned English in less than a year, navigates the streets in a black Mercedes and rents an apartment in Town of Mount Royal, where he lives with his Russian-born wife, Medina, and four children age 4 to 11. The latter two were born in Canada.

Beterbiev has a dry sense of humour and self-deprecating nature. Like many pugilists, he’s easily likable.

“I haven’t learned English,” he insisted. “It’s not English. It’s just words.”

His life in Montreal is simple, basically consisting of family and boxing. Beterbiev has an incredible work ethic, Ramsay said, never taking more than two weeks off from the gym even when no coming bout is scheduled. When he jogs in the morning, Beterbiev listens to audio books, not music, and likes to stimulate his mind by playing chess. While he insisted he wasn’t a gifted student, Beterbiev nonetheless graduated with a physical education degree.

“I’m not stupid,” he said. “I have something in my head. But my whole focus was boxing.”

Ramsay said he has trained boxers who drank, gambled and chased women. Beterbiev succumbs to none of the above. A devout Muslim, one of the few requests of his trainer is that he occasionally accompanies him in prayers.

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And although Beterbiev’s recognized as one of the premier pound-for-pound boxers in the world, he said much remains to be learned and conquered.

“I’m not so good, but I’m working on it,” he said, appearing serious. “I need to be before I finish my career. I need to be a good boxer. There are many things I can improve — technique, power, physical conditioning. I really believe that in my mind and want to improve my skills.”

hzurkowsky@postmedia.com

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