Tomorrow night on ESPN (11 p.m. ET following 37 straight hours of the X Games), highly regarded light heavyweight contender/prospect Artur Beterbiev returns to action in Montreal, headlining a PBC card from the Bell Centre against Argentina's Ezequiel Maderna. The show also has a potentially interesting co-feature in the welterweight division between two unbeaten and untested prospects.
Here's a look at the card.
Artur Beterbiev vs Ezequiel Maderna
Record: 9-0 (9 KO) ... Streak: W9 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 9-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'11½" / 73" ... Age: 31
Thoughts: Beterbiev has all the makings of another Golovkin/Kovalev type of star, a Russian boxer with a sort of clinical but aggressive style, accurate and powerful, well-schooled but vicious. And above all else, fun to watch.
Beterbiev, unlike those guys, is with Al Haymon. This alone opens up some criticism, because Haymon is a divisive figure at best in boxing fan circles. Some people don't hate him. Some people hate him. I'm not sure anyone, apart from the fighters he manages, loves Al Haymon, but he is the power broker in the sport right now, for better or worse. And because of that association, Beterbiev facing someone like Maderna, when the feeling is he should be fighting top light heavyweights, gets a bit more scrutiny.
That may be unfair. Or maybe it's not. Beterbiev looks like a world class light heavyweight. He beat Kovalev in the amateurs, where Beterbiev was a true standout. He won gold at both the 2006 and 2010 European Championships, silver at the 2007 World Championships, and gold at the 2009 Worlds. He fought in the 2008 Olympics, but lost a controversial decision to China's Zhang Xiaoping. Zhang would go on to win a bullshit gold medal, robbing Ireland's Kenny Egan in the final bout. He moved up to heavyweight (201 lbs) and fought again at the London Olympics in 2012, beating Michael Hunter before losing to Oleksandr Usyk, who had also beaten him at the 2011 Worlds.
Beterbiev is in that grey area between prospect and contender. It's pretty clear that he is a top 10 guy at 175 pounds right now, but he does have just nine pro fights, and his best wins have come against faded former titleholders, plus untested prospect Jeff Page Jr, and most recently, Alexander Johnson. He also hasn't fought in 11 months, so there is some concern, at least, that maybe he could be a bit rusty.
All that said, he has thrashed his opposition thus far as a pro, and there's little reason to suspect that won't continue on Saturday night. Then hopefully by the end of this year, we see him in with Adonis Stevenson, then the winner of that could fight the winner of Kovalev-Ward, and we could all make believe like this is a sport that operates like a sport should.
Record: 23-2 (15 KO) ... Streak: W3 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 8-2 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6'2" / 78" ... Age: 29
Thoughts: Maderna isn't a contender, but he's not a bad fighter. He's just not exactly what people were hoping to see against Beterbiev at this stage, and that's maybe a bit unfair. Beterbiev does only have nine pro fights, and his best wins are over Gabriel Campillo and Tavoris Cloud, who were both about shot when he faced them, and were also advantageous style matchups. Neither of them were going to be able to deal with Beterbiev's talent, even at their best. Cloud was too one-dimensional, and Campillo too slow a starter.
Maderna is tall and long, so he has some physical advantages here. And his two losses have come against solid opposition. He lost to Edwin Rodriguez in Monaco in 2013, and then to Thomas Oosthuizen in South Africa later that year, via majority decision. Those are also his only two fights outside of Argentina, where he's been able to build up his record against less than stellar opposition.
Maderna did represent Argentina in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, too, losing in the opening round to Shawn Estrada. Remember Shawn Estrada?
Matchup Grade: C-. I don't hate the fight, but there's a high chance of this being a two round blowout, too. Beterbiev is a good bit better than Maderna, has already smashed dudes at this level, and unless Maderna has suddenly developed one of the best jabs in the sport, I don't see Beterbiev having much trouble. Maderna has not been stopped, though, and Beterbiev has stopped everyone, so I guess that's your narrative. Something's got to give!
Bryant Perrella vs David Grayton
Record: 13-0 (12 KO) ... Streak: W13 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 6'0" / 72" ... Age: 27
Thoughts: Perrella lost to Errol Spence Jr when trying to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team, and went pro in February 2012. He fought twice in about a month and a half, then didn't fight again for 11 months, and then didn't fight again for another 14 months after that. So really, Perrella turned pro in 2014, for all it matters much, because he's fought regularly since then. And he signed with Al Haymon in 2014, which is where it really begins for him.
So far he's looked good as a prospect, and his imposing height and power make him a prospect to watch, in spite of his somewhat advanced age. He started stepping up his competition a bit last year, beating a few decent-ish club guys in Abraham Alvarez, Eduardo Flores, Patrick Boozer, and Chaquib Fadli, before a win over Ramon Ayala in January of this year, his last fight.
Most of Perrella's fights have been very short. He's only gone into the sixth round once, only into the fifth round twice. Eight of his fights have ended inside of two rounds. He brings action and has some skills. That's good enough for right now.
Record: 14-0 (10 KO) ... Streak: W14 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: N/A / N/A ... Age: 28
Thoughts: I admit that I don't know much of anything about David Grayton other than what you can look up. Our friends at Stiff Jab wrote about him before his debut in 2012, having known him from the D.C. boxing scene:
"Grayton described himself as an aggressive fighter that switches it up between coming straight forward and boxing. A southpaw, he called his right hook his best punch, and said many people have compared his style to Bernard Hopkins, the wily old man of the fight game. An interesting choice, given Day Day’s all-action style."
Gautham Nagesh did a more in-depth profile of Grayton in 2013 for the Washington Post, detailing how he got into the sport against the wishes of his father, a former boxer himself, and his mother.
Repeatedly in anything you read about him, you'll see Grayton described as an action fighter with, as Nagesh put it, a "cocky, aggressive ring persona" that doesn't match how he is outside of the ring.
As a pro, Grayton has done very little in his nearly four-year career. He's been out there fighting, but at low levels -- very low for his first 12 fights, in fact, before stepping up just a hair in his last two, though even that was still low level stuff. But the talent seems to be there. Grayton was the 2010 National Golden Gloves champion, beating Errol Spence Jr in the final.
Matchup Grade: B-. A tentative grade, but on paper this one looks potentially exciting, like a real sleeper matchup. Perrella is an action fighter with some skills, and Grayton is said to be an action fighter with some skills. Put that together and you should have an action fight with some skills.