Artur Beterbiev is the knockout king.
The Russian maintained his perfect knockout record with an eight-round stoppage of Anthony Yarde in an eight-round classic to defend three light heavyweight world titles on Saturday.
Coming off a second-round destruction of Joe Smith Jr. in a unification matchup in June, many expected Beterbiev to steamroll Yarde easily. However, it was a tougher bout than expected.
But in typical Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs) fashion, he ended the fight in style to register his seventh world title defense.
"I can't say I did a bad fight but if I did it again, I would do better, but I feel good," Beterbiev said.
"Every boxer in this category can punch hard and Anthony did too; he is 31, he's young, I turned pro 28, so he has time. I hope he does well in the future."
The victory sets up a potential undisputed fight between WBC, IBF and WBO champion Beterbiev and WBA titlist Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs), who was also the unanimous choice for 2022 Fighter of the Year after dominant wins over Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez last year.
However, the bout will likely be pushed back to 2024 after the WBC mandated Beterbiev to defend his belt against former super middleweight titleholder Callum Smith. If successful, the Bivol fight would likely be next.
Although two of the three judges had Yarde ahead at the time of the stoppage, the punch stats had Beterbiev leading the charge. According to Compubox, Beterbiev landed 136 of 334 punches (41 percent) and Yarde connected on 111 of 357 blows (31 percent).
Yarde (23-3, 22 KOs) was stopped for the second time in his career and for the second time by a Russian. He was knocked out in the 11th round by Sergey Kovalev for the WBO belt in 2019.
The 31-year-old Yarde, who started strong but faded before getting stretched by Kovalev, was also aggressive on Saturday but fell short in his second world title attempt.
Beterbiev opened up the second round by backing Yarde into a corner, landing with a series of right hands. Yarde managed to escape danger, but Beterbiev controlled the third round behind a stiff jab.
Beterbiev connected with a barrage of blows that hurt Yarde in the fourth round. Later in the frame, Yarde walked into a right hand but somehow didn't go down.
In the fifth, Beterbiev landed a left hand, but Yarde came back with a right to the temple that stunned Beterbiev.
By the sixth round, both fighters were cut. Yarde was cut below the right eye and Beterbiev was sliced above the left eye.
The toe-to-toe slugfest continued in the seventh, with Yarde connecting with two clubbing rights before Beterbiev nearly sent Yarde to the canvas.
Beterbiev finished the show in the eighth round when he landed a straight right hand that sent Yarde spinning, before another right hand dropped him on both knees.
Yarde got on his feet on wobbly legs and when the fight was resumed, Yarde's trainer, Tunde Ajayi, immediately threw the towel to halt the fight.