Light heavyweight contender Artur Beterbiev, due for a world title elimination fight, has severed his relationship with promoter Yvon Michel, leaving the Russian puncher's next move up in the air.
"My dear friends, fans and supporters, as many of you have already heard, my lawyer has filed [Tuesday] morning a demand for Declaratory Judgment asking the Superior Court in Montreal to confirm that my promotional agreement with Groupe Yvon Michel (GYM) is effectively terminated/expired," Beterbiev said in a statement posted on social media. "I have nothing personal against Yvon Michel and everything is fine on my end. I keep training hard to get back in the ring and become World Champion ASAP. That has always been, and will always be, my sole focus and goal in my professional [career]. Thanks for your support!"
Beterbiev, a two-time Russian Olympian, moved to Montreal to begin his professional career in 2013 and has been with Michel since, but he did not give any specific reasons for ending their relationship.
However, according to a source with knowledge of the issues, Beterbiev says he has not been paid his minimum purses nor has he had the minimum number of bouts he is due under his contract, despite a shoulder injury that kept him sidelined for one year, from June 2015 to June 2016.
Michel did not dispute that Beterbiev is seeking to end their contract, telling ESPN, "Beterbiev is considering his contract is terminated with GYM and he is asking a Quebec judge to confirm it. We believe otherwise and we have arguments to back it up. It may take several weeks before having a judgment. Meantime we are still Beterbiev's promoter and we have made a deal with [Team] Sauerland representative Chris Meyer for the services of Enrico Koelling for the IBF title eliminator [to be] the mandatory contender to Andre Ward."
While it remains to be seen whether Beterbiev, who is with adviser Al Haymon and has boxed on Premier Boxing Champions cards, will fight the eliminator under Michel's banner, Michel said he is making plans for the fight. He said the fight with Koelling would be either in Canada or the United States and that it must be done before the beginning of August, per IBF rules.
"We have a tentative date for July 29 in Quebec City," Michel said. "The date and the site may change. We are talking with PBC. We have until May 19 to deposit the contract to the IBF and make the final call for the date and place."
The 32-year-old Beterbiev (11-0, 11 KOs), one of boxing's most devastating punchers, was supposed to face contender Sullivan Barrera in the world title elimination fight on April 21 in Barrera's adopted hometown of Miami after Michel won a purse bid to gain promotional control of the bout.
However, Barrera, unhappy with the purse he would receive under the purse bid, withdrew from the fight. Michel won with a bid of $251,000 to beat Main Events, Barrera's promoter and the only other bidder, which offered $181,000. Based on a 75-25 split in Beterbiev's favor, he was entitled to $188,250 with Barrera getting $62,750.
With Barrera out, that left Michel and the IBF to go down the organization's 175-pound rankings to find a contender willing to participate in the eliminator. Germany's Koelling (23-1, 6 KOs) was willing and Michel and his camp eventually reached a deal, but now the fight taking place seems in doubt given Beterbiev's decision to part ways with Michel.