Should Russian Artur Beterbiev Be Allowed To Fight In The UK?

Artur Beterbiev – The Fine Line Between Unjustified Blanket Bans And Deserving Sanctions

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Artur Beterbiev vs Anthony Yarde: Background

Unified WBC, WBO, IBF Light Heavyweight Champion, Russia’s Artur Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KO and WBO #1 Challenger, England’s Anthony Yarde (22-2) have a deal in place for a mandatory defence later this year. Promoter Bob Arum confirmed last month that his champion Beterbeiv would travel to Yarde’s home in London for an October clash with a potential date of October 22/29 rumoured.

Frank Warren, the promoter of Yarde, has since confirmed that they are finalising the fights in line for an announcement. Queensberry promotions have already booked the 17k capacity O2 Arena.

The Issue Behind Beterbiev Fighting In The UK

Artur Beterbiev is no regular Russian though, Beterbiev is ‘brothers’ (figuratively) with Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov, a close ally of Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Kadyrov has been accused of human rights violations so widespread that they constitute crimes against humanity. Through political power, he has campaigned against the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, women and human rights activists.

Kadyrov founded and owns Fight Club Akhmat, a professional sports club for martial arts. Beterbiev, among some UFC fighters, is a member of the fight club. Kadyrov, a strong supporter of Russia’s war against Ukraine, has contributed troops from his own private militia to Putin’s army to support him in the war.

According to the Guardian, several of the Chechen soldiers on the Russian side currently fighting in Ukraine were conscripted from the fight club of which Beterbiev is a member. Beterbiev technically is a Canadian citizen and used that to compete in New York in June, avoiding sanctions placed on Russian athletes.

What Artur Beterbiev’s Link To Kadyrov Means In Practice

This is not a case of punishing athletes for their country’s actions though, Beterbiev is a strong supporter of one of the key players on the Russian side of the war. Kadyrov and his fight club are currently sanctioned by the US Dept of Treasury, a sanction that blocks US-based people from doing business with Kadyrov/Fight club.

Beterbiev has received substantial gifts from Kadyrov for ‘successfully representing his regime’ such as a Mercedes W222 worth over £80,000. As well as this, Artur Beterbiev has a ‘co-operation’ with Kadyrov’s fight club with one of his roles being to ‘promote the interests’ of the club in North America. Beterbiev has famously worn Akhmat Fight Club T-shirts while in the boxing ring.

Artur Beterbiev vs Anthony Yarde in London

Former cruiserweight champion Mairis Briedis refused to condemn Russia’s invasion stating he was on no side, subsequently, his fight with Jai Opetia in Australia was not picked up by TV3. TV3 has shown many Briedis fights and he is a major draw on that channel but with his stance on the war, no Latvian channel would pick up the fight.

Beterbiev is yet to give a stance on the war as he was not asked to do so by American media for his 3-belt unification with Joe Smith Jr but if he was asked to do so, it is very unlikely he would go against his ‘brother’ in Kadyrov and support Ukraine. We can reasonably assume Beterbiev would be more towards the Russian side.

A Russian racing F3 driver using an Andorran license was denied entry into the UK to race following the UK government policy of no Russian athletes competing. Even though he had a license from a different country, like Beterbiev with a Canadian licence, he was not allowed to compete. With his connection being significantly more than an average Russian athlete, Will Beterbiev even be allowed to enter the UK?

It is also worth remembering that Artur Beterbiev vs Anthony Yarde would be broadcast on a major UK TV channel in BT Sport and get national media coverage. What happens when a mainstream news reporter (Boxing media would likely avoid the topic) asks Beterbiev his position on the war? Are the government, BT or the British Boxing Board Of Control going to allow an open supporter of the war to compete?

By Darshan Desai

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