On Saturday night, Artur Beterbiev extended his undefeated record when he stopped Anthony Yarde in the eighth round of a thrilling light-heavyweight title fight at the OVO Arena in Wembley, England.
The Chechen-born boxer showed incredible resolve and determination to retain his WBO, WBC and IBF light-heavyweight world titles against an underdog who pushed him into unfamiliarly deep terrain. And while the fight was closer than many fans and oddsmakers initially expected, it did not stop Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov from showering his favourite boxer with praise.
“Sports are unpredictable, but in the case of Beterbiev, the outcome of the battle is easy to predict,” Kadyrov said to his nearly 9 million followers on Instagram. “Our athlete ended all his fights prematurely and this duel was no exception. His career is rapidly rising, leaving far behind those who once glorified themselves as invincible fighters.
“I sincerely congratulate my dear brother for his confident victory! Years of hard training, dedication to his job and an indomitable desire to be ahead of all his opponents have made him a true boxer, an idol of millions of aspiring athletes,” Kadyrov continued.
Beterbiev, 38, was born in Chechnya and represented Russia during the Beijing and London Olympic Games. He later relocated to Montreal, Canada to pursue a professional boxing career and has fought almost exclusively in his adopted homeland, as well as in the United States. He has since become a Canadian citizen.
However, despite representing Canada, Beterbiev continued to maintain a friendly relationship with Kadyrov, who has long been accused of well-documented human rights abuses, including forced disappearances, torture, summary executions and an ongoing purge of Chechnya’s LGBTQ+ community. He is an official member of the dictator’s state-sponsored Akhmat fight club, an entity under U.S. government scrutiny and sanctions, and has posed for numerous photo-ops with the tyrant and his family. Beterbiev was also made an “Honorary Citizen of Grozny” by Kadyrov December 2021.
While Beterbiev has long avoided answering questions about his relationship with Kadyrov, including in a recent interview with The Guardian, the champion boxer made sure to thank Kadyrov for his continued “attention” over the years following his victory against Yarde.
“Your faith in me for many years has been an incentive for me to strive for new achievements,” Beterbiev said in response to Kadyrov’s praise on Instagram. “I will never get tired of thanking you for the attention you give to me and my loved ones! I am proud to have such a brother!”
It is worth noting that Canada has imposed sanctions on Kadyrov on numerous occasions, most recently in August 2022 for his role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
About the author: Karim Zidan is an investigative reporter for Bloody Elbow focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. His is also a contributor to The New York Times and The Guardian. (full bio)