Artur Beterbiev, Sullivan Barrera to meet in world title eliminator bout

Light heavyweight contenders Artur Beterbiev and Sullivan Barrera will finally square off in a world title eliminator, announced almost 1½ years after a fight between the two fell through.

On Thursday, Yvon Michel, Beterbiev's promoter, won a purse bid to secure the promotional rights for the fight whose winner will become one of the mandatory challengers for unified world titleholder Andre Ward (31-0, 15 KOs), who already has a one-sided decision victory against Barrera in a nontitle bout last March.

Michel bid $251,000 to beat Barrera's promoter, Main Events, the only other bidder, which offered $181,000. Based on a 75-25 split in Beterbiev's favor, he is entitled to $188,250 with Barrera getting $62,750. Main Events petitioned the IBF to give Barrera a 40 percent cut of the bid based on his superior résumé but was rejected. According to IBF rules, the fight must take place within 90 days.

Although the exact date and location are not yet set, Michel told ESPN that he would like to put on the fight in late March or early April in New York.

"We have 15 days to decide the exact date and place," Michel said. "We have to see where that will fit best, and we also need the time to properly advertise it because this match has all the ingredients for a great fight. Our wish is to bring that fight to the USA to enhance Artur Beterbiev's exposure."

Beterbiev (11-0, 11 KOs) and Barrera (18-1, 13 KOs) were due to meet in a world title elimination match in late 2015, but it never came about for various reasons, including a shoulder injury to Beterbiev, who wound up having surgery that forced him to sit out the second half of 2015 and first half of 2016.

The 32-year-old Beterbiev, a Montreal-based native of Russia and two-time Olympian, has won two fights in a row since his return, both by early knockout. He also has knockout wins against former world titleholders Tavoris Cloud and Gabriel Campillo, but both were past their primes when he faced them.

"Barrera will no doubt be the strongest opponent of Beterbiev's pro career so far," Michel said. "The Cuban has an excellent amateur background, is always well conditioned, has a good sense of distance in the ring and a very dangerous right hand.

"Nobody so far has been strong enough to keep up with Beterbiev's power but he has much more that that. He has great boxing IQ; he is very crafty; and Barrera's opposition will give Artur the opportunity to show the world his real nature."

Barrera, 34, a Cuban defector based in Miami, bounced back from the loss to Ward on Dec. 16, when he knocked out then-unbeaten contender Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in the seventh round of a highly entertaining fight in Indio, California, during which both fighters were knocked down.

"I think we have a good idea of what Sullivan can do in this fight. I feel very confident," Main Events promoter Kathy Duva said. "The thing about Sullivan is his career is on an upswing. He has fought much tougher opposition that Beterbiev has. Styles make fights and I think he has the style to beat him. I know he'll have the game plan to do it. He's on a high now coming off a big win. When he heard about this fight he was like, 'I'm doing it.' We had other possibilities and talking to HBO but he said, 'No, this fight is what I want. I want to get the shot at becoming the mandatory again.' You have to love him. He's a real fighter."