THIS fight is massive and what we have dreamed of and worked so hard for. For me, it’s similar to Ricky Hatton-Kostya Tszyu (in Manchester in June, 2005).
Ricky beat an established world champion that night to make himself a huge star and that’s how big this fight is for Ant.
He becomes massive when he beats Beterbiev and it’s crazy to think that it’s at the venue where Ant started his pro career (in May 2015 with a two-round stoppage of Mitch Mitchell). We were first on a bill that had Bradley Skeete and Frank Buglioni on it and look how far Ant has come since then.
Bob Arum says Artur Beterbiev is a special, special fighter, but what about Ant? Look at his story.
Beterbiev had 300 amateur contests and boxed against the best in the Olympics and World Championships. In comparison, Ant had 12 amateur bouts. Ant has had less than 40 fights in his whole life. That’s not normal. Ant is the special one. People don’t do what he does. They don’t go from being a novice amateur to a world-class pro. It just doesn’t happen.
He wasn’t a Great Britain amateur, he didn’t go to the Olympics, he had 12 amateur fights and now he’s fighting for three world championship belts.
People should be talking about how great Ant is, not how great Beterbiev is. Ant is the special one, not Beterbiev. Beterbiev is obviously a good fighter to be where he is, but I’m not salivating over him the way some other people are. I respect him, but I don’t really care what he’s done.
He hasn’t fought a puncher like Anthony Yarde yet and he has been dropped by people (Jeff Page Jnr and Callum Johnson) who don’t hit as hard as Ant does. I believe that every opponent Beterbiev has beaten in his pro career Ant would beat as well.
Oleksandr Gzozdyk (a 10th round stoppage in October 2019) was a good result, but Ant would do the same to him as Beterbiev did and I know he would have knocked out Joe Smith Jnr in a couple of rounds as well.
The whole world wanted to fight Joe Smith (beaten in two rounds by Beterbiev last June) because he was so open and so hittable. Beterbiev took 12 rounds to catch up with Enrico Koelling (in November, 2017) and 10 to get rid of Adam Deines (in March, 2021) and I know Ant would have got the job done quicker against both of them.
I know Beterbiev has been sparring Dan Azeez and Callum Simpson, but there’s no way they can replicate what Ant is going to bring.
I believe Ant is getting better and better. I think his last two performances have been his best yet. He looked tremendous against Lyndon Arthur (in their rematch) and Stefani Koykov (in Telford last November).
He has grown since the (Sergey) Kovalev fight (in August 2019 when Yarde was beaten in 11 rounds).
It was a lack of experience that cost him that night. I was the only member of the corner team who had any experience of world title fights. I was with Don Charles when Derek Chisora challenged Vitali Klitschko (in Munich in February, 2012). That’s why we added James Cook to the team.
We’ve definitely seen Ant grow over the last few fights. He feels a lot different now and he looks a lot different.
What he’s been through with family deaths (Yarde lost five family members in the space of a couple of years) puts him up there with any world champion in terms of mental toughness.
Ant has a whole family to look after on his own and he just gets on with it. That has made him stronger and I think this fight has come along at the right time for us.
Beterbiev banged the table at the press conference in December and that was out of character. He doesn’t usually do that sort of thing. He definitely felt something that he doesn’t usually feel.
It’s going to be a special night.