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Beterbiev opponent? Not Hopkins, maybe Chilemba

Light heavyweight Artur Beterbiev, left, is still looking for an opponent for a title eliminator. Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

When light heavyweight contender Artur Beterbiev, manager Al Haymon and promoter Yvon Michel decided this week to turn down an offer from Main Events for Beterbiev to challenge unified titleholder Sergey Kovalev on Nov. 28 in Moscow, they said it was so Beterbiev could gain more experience by fighting in a title eliminator that, with a win, would make him Kovalev’s mandatory challenger.

It was also because, as No. 1 contender, they could force Kovalev and Main Events to a purse bid and have the upper hand in winning the promotional rights to the fight because of all that Haymon investor money being thrown at his Premier Boxing Champions that would be at his disposal to win the bid.

So, in the meantime, Beterbiev accepted the position in the title eliminator and the IBF ordered him to face former champion Bernard Hopkins, who is coming off a one-sided decision loss to Kovalev in their unification fight last fall.

Hopkins, 50, wants one more major fight before he retires, not a brutally tough one against a rough, rugged, not well known, super dangerous Beterbiev.

Hopkins had until the close of business on Thursday to accept his spot in the eliminator but, according to the IBF, he did not respond. Therefore, Hopkins is out of contention for the fight, which he probably doesn’t care about anyway. He is seeking a title shot at super middleweight against Arthur Abraham.

So the IBF will go down its 175-pound rankings to find somebody willing to accept the eliminator against Beterbiev.

No. 1 is vacant -- that’s what the fight is for -- Beterbiev is No. 2 and Hopkins was No. 3. No. 4 Erik Skoglund is not available as he has another fight scheduled for Sept. 19. The IBF is down to Isaac Chilemba, another Main Events-promoted fighter.

The IBF said he has until Tuesday to respond. If he accepts it, Main Events and Michel will negotiate the fight, and if they can’t make a deal it will go to a purse bid. If Chilemba declines, the IBF will continue down its rankings until somebody accepts the eliminator with Beterbiev.

Chilemba is no lock to accept the fight because he another good option that he and his team must discuss. He is ranked No. 1 in the WBC rankings and is expected to be ordered to face No. 2 Andrzej Fonfara in that organization’s final eliminator for a shot at champion Adonis Stevenson.