His former sparring partner Dan Azeez doesn’t believe the “meticulous” Artur Beterbiev would have agreed to the new date of October 12 for his fight with Dmitrii Bivol unless they were certain he would be fully prepared. 

The IBF, WBO and WBC light-heavyweight champion suffered, in May, a ruptured meniscus – an injury that at 39 is potentially severe enough to threaten his career, and to similarly severely undermine his biggest fight against one of the finest fighters in the world.

His fellow Russian Bivol, 33 and the WBA champion, already represented by a considerable distance his toughest test, but Azeez – who on Saturday drew over eight rounds with Croatia’s Hrvoje Sep – has dismissed the prospect of him entering the ring at anything short of his intimidating best.

Azeez has spent time in Beterbiev’s training camps in Canada while employed as one of his sparring partners and therefore observed he and his team’s methods, and he explained: “They wouldn’t agree to October if they didn’t believe that [he’d be ready]. No chance.

“I don’t think so. Beterbiev – being out there with him [while sparring]. No chance. They’ll take their time and they’ll wait. 

“If the belts get stripped off of him, so be it, but they’re meticulous – but they’ve probably put in the right timeframe, and believe that by then he’ll be okay.”

Libya’s Malik Zinad replaced Beterbiev as Bivol’s opponent for the date of June 1 when Beterbiev’s injury ruled him out, and was stopped in six rounds.

“After watching Bivol, I don’t know if he’s going to be able to take the power,” Azeez continued. “Malik [Zinad, Bivol’s most recent opponent] put in a decent performance, because I believe he went for it. 

“You talk about Craig [Richards] and Lyndon [Arthur, among Bivol’s former opponents] – they went the distance with him and they didn’t get stopped, but I don’t believe they really pushed themselves. I might be wrong – this is just my opinion – they seemed like, ‘Do you know what? I’m in here with a great [fighter] – I’ll see this out’. 

“Malik went in there, ‘I’m in here with you, I’m gonna try and win’, and when you do that you open yourself up for risk, and to be great you have to take risks, and that’s what he did – I give him full respect for that. I don’t care if he didn’t last the rounds. He went for it; came up short. I’m sure he’ll be back again.”