Chicago (AFP) - Russia's Artur Beterbiev makes his first defense of his International Boxing Federation light heavyweight world title Saturday against England's Callum Johnson, who thinks he can spring the upset in his first world title bid.
"I can't wait to get in there with him," the 33-year-old Johnson said with his potential breakthrough bout looming in Chicago. "I'm living the dream and I genuinely believe I will shock the world."
Johnson, a former Commonwealth Games champion for Scotland, brings a record of 17-0 with 12 knockouts to the bout, but he has fought just once in two years, ending an 18-month period of inactivity with a first-round knockout of British light heavyweight champion Frank Buglioni in March of this year.
"He is a strong, powerful beast and he's a very good fighter," added Johnson. "It's a challenge that I am up for and I'm full of belief."
Beterbiev, who trains in Canada, has won all 12 of his professional bouts by knockout, seizing the IBF 175-pound (79 kg) belt with a two-knockdown, 12th-round knockout of Enrico Koelling last November.
Beterbiev trainer Marc Ramsey says Johnson will pose a far different challenge than a defensive minded Koelling did.
"Koelling felt a little power, and after the first round, pulled back and only tried to survive," he said. "It's hard to work with somebody who doesn't want to fight at all, but this fight with Johnson will be the complete opposite."
On the same card, World Boxing Association super bantamweight world champion Danny Roman takes on British challenger Gavin McDonnell.
America's Roman, 25-2 with one drawn and nine knockouts, makes his third defense of the title he won with a ninth-round knockout of Shun Kubo in September of 2017.
McDonnell, 20-1 with two drawn, suffered his only career defeat in his only prior world title tilt, dropping a majority decision to Rey Vargas last year in their fight for the vacant WBC super bantamweight world title.