ARTUR BETERBIEV grew up idolising heavyweight icons Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson – but he can never dream of being as scary as Iron Mike.
Frighteningly powerful Beterbiev has been described as a modern-day Tyson by his trainer Marc Ramsay.
All 17 of the Russian's unbeaten fights have ended in stoppages, making him the only current world champion with a 100 per cent KO ratio.
But while Beterbiev strikes just as much fear into his opponents eyes as prime 1980s Tyson, he insists he is not so much cut from the same cloth.
With a smile, he told SunSport through a translator: "Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali have always been my idols of boxing.
"However, I didn't adopt their characters, I didn't adopt their styles. They have different boxing styles to me.
"And I don't think I'm as intimidating as Mike Tyson! Look at me, I'm not as scary as Mike Tyson was."
Beterbiev, 36, from Chechnya, was a standout amateur, representing Russia at European and World level.
He also competed at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, but failed to medal and left the unpaid ranks with a 295-5 record.
Some of the names he beat in the amateurs include Sergey Kovalev, 37, and Oleksandr Usyk, 34.
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Having gained so much experience with the vest and head guards on, it came as no surprise that Beterbiev was fast-tracked in the pros.
By his 12th fight he won the IBF belt in 2017 against German Enrico Kolling.
He made two defences before unifying it with Oleksandr Gvozdyk's WBC title in October 2019.
They put on a thriller in Philadelphia and after three knockdowns in round ten, Gvozdyk conceded defeat.
The Ukrainian then spent two nights in hospital due to the affects of Beterbiev's power.
Beterbiev, who returns on Saturday against Adam Deines, has another ready-made rival in countryman Dmitry Bivol, 30, the WBA champion.
He has also seen rivals from the pros and amateurs move as high as heavyweight, such as Usyk.
But Beterbiev has ruled out ever moving past cruiserweight, and only then it would have to be for an offer he could not refuse.
He said: "Maybe I would move up to one weight to cruiserweight, if I had some interesting fights.
"But otherwise I wouldn't change my weight category, I wouldn't move up.
"But for a great fight? Yes."
Beterbiev was due to make his return in January, but after testing positive for coronavirus after Christmas, the fight was instead backdated.
Having already overcome a bout with Covid-19, the unified champ is primed and ready to go following his unwanted delay.
Beterbiev said: "The most frustrating thing was the first cancelled fight as it happened just 14 days before the scheduled fight.
"Afterwards we started training again, and it wasn't so frustrating as we couldn't do anything about it.
"Look, I had to just take it as it is, as I can't change things."
Beterbiev's career-best win against Gvozdyk saw him enter the mythical pound-for-pound rankings.
Mexican superstar Canelo Alvarez sits atop of the boxing throne, currently campaigning at super-middleweight.
He ventured up to Beterbiev's home in 2019, as he KOd ageing veteran Sergey Kovalev to win the WBO belt.
But Canelo, 30, later vacated the strap and admitted staying at light-heavyweight could be a step too far.
Still, Beterbiev remains open to a super-fight with the four-division king and left it in Alvarez's hands.
He said: "Of course I'm interested, I'm in.
"Ask him, I cannot answer for him. But if you ask me, I'm in, you'd have to ask him if he's in."
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