Turki Alalshikh Wants Beterbiev-Bivol Winner To Move Up To Cruiserweight, Face Opetaia Next

Boxing Scene

Turki Alalshikh has what he considers an appealing plan for Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol beyond their light heavyweight title unification showdown.

The chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority hopes the winner between Beterbiev (20-0, 20 KOs) and Bivol (22-0, 11 KOs), the fight Alalshikh acknowledged he wants to see the most, would move up in weight for his following fight to challenge unbeaten cruiserweight Jai Opetaia.

Australia’s Opetaia (24-0, 19 KOs) knocked out England’s Ellis Zorro (17-1, 7 KOs) in the first round as part of the “Day of Reckoning” undercard December 23 at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Bivol beat British contender Lyndon Arthur (23-2, 16 KOs) unanimously on points in another 12-round undercard bout December 23 to retain his WBA light heavyweight title.

Alalshikh discussed the importance of finalizing a deal for Beterbiev-Bivol and the winner opposing Opetaia during a wide-ranging interview with DAZN’s Ade Oladipo that was posted to the streaming service’s social media platforms and website Wednesday.

“The people need to see Artur-Bivol,” Alalshikh said, “need to see – what I want to see, I want to see the [winner] of Artur and Bivol [fight] against Opetaia. You understand me? Yeah, this is what I hope to have. We need to see this fight.”

Alalshikh previously revealed that he intended to add a bout between Opetaia and Mairis Briedis to the Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk undercard February 17 at Kingdom Arena. The IBF stripped Sydney’s Opetaia of its cruiserweight title after he agreed to fight Zorro on December 23 rather than moving forward with his mandated rematch versus Latvia’s Briedis (28-2, 20 KOs), a former IBF/IBO/WBC/WBO champ.

Opetaia beat Briedis by unanimous decision in a 12-round fight for the IBF belt in July 2022 at Gold Coast Convention Centre in Broadbeach, Australia. Opetaia and Briedis might fight for the unclaimed IBF cruiserweight crown if they indeed square off again February 17.

Alalshikh also provided Oladipo with an encouraging update regarding negotiations for the long-awaited Beterbiev-Bivol battle for Beterbiev’s IBF, WBC and WBO light heavyweight titles and Bivol’s WBA belt.

“Of course, the biggest [fight] is Tyson and Usyk now,” Alalshikh said. “OK? It never happened before, four [heavyweight belts] at the same times. OK? Of course. But as a fan, Artur and Bivol is huge, as a fan. Maybe in some [regions] doesn’t have a lot of pay-per-view [interest]. I understand this. And this is why a lot of promoters doesn’t take the risk, because this will cost a lot.

“But we take the risk, and we talk with them. OK? And now it is only about the details because you know Artur is [a] brother. He is Muslim and he have Ramadan. And in Ramadan, he cannot train a lot, you know? We need to give him space to be ready [for] this fight.”

Ramadan – the Muslim month for fasting, prayer, reflection and community – is scheduled to begin March 10 and end April 9. Bob Arum, whose Top Rank Inc. promotes Beterbiev, stated after Beterbiev’s seventh-round technical knockout of England’s Callum Smith (29-2, 21 KOs) on January 13 at Videotron Centre in Quebec City, Canada that the Russian-born, Montreal-based Beterbiev could be ready to box Bivol three months after Ramadan concludes.

British promoter Eddie Hearn, whose Matchroom Boxing works with Bivol, stated recently that Bivol’s side of the deal for a Beterbiev bout has been completed.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.

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