Upon his return to Chechnya after unifying the WBO, WBA and IBF light-heavyweight titles, Artur Beterbiev was given a hero’s welcome and an official state parade.
The 37-year-old boxer was greeted with dancers, fans, and state officials upon his arrival in the capital city of Grozny.
“I’ll try to bring another belt to the republic. It’s very nice when the work is done well, and at home they are greeted like that,” Beterbiev said when interviewed on state television during the proceedings.
For years, the Chechen-born boxer considered by many to be the world’s best active light heavyweight has maintained a friendly relationship with Ramzan Kadyrov, the dictator at the helm of Russia’s Chechnya region and ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Kadyrov has been accused of well-documented human rights abuses, including forced disappearances, torture, summary executions and an ongoing purge of Chechnya’s LGBTQ+ community.
While Beterbiev is based in Canada, he continues to maintain ties with Kadyrov. He posed with Kadyrov for numerous photo-ops and broke bread with the tyrant’s family. Even upon his most recent return to Chechnya, Beterbiev was dressed in a T-shirt emblazoned with the Akhmat fight club logo, the gym sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury for providing “pride and profit” to Kadyrov.
Kadyrov himself has openly shown his support for Beterbiev, referring to the Chechen as one of the world’s best boxers. He is also known to stay up to watch his fights, including his most recent victory against Joe Smith. The dictator posted a clip from the fight, along with his praise and analysis of Beterbiev’s performance on Sunday morning.
“Artur has devoted his whole life to boxing and inspires thousands and thousands of young guys,” Kadyrov said on Instagram. “It’s nice to see how the victories did not intoxicate him, and he remains a modest Chechen guy, a real role model, an idol for beginner boxers. I am proud that our people have such a noble, honest, religious son who glorifies our republic throughout the world.”