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Artur Beterbiev is Redefining ‘Slugging Percentage’

When boxing’s unified light heavyweight champion of the world steps into the ring, it’s always a short night at the office. Let’s comprehend the home run power of Artur Beterbiev.

Slugging percentage is a baseball stat. You have heard of it. Meant to provide a snapshot of a batter’s power-hitting ability, it’s calculated simply by dividing total bases by at bats. For instance, a hitter who hypothetically (a) records a single in every at bat or (b) records three outs and a home run in every four at bats would have a slugging percentage of 1.000.

Even easier to understand, however, is the slugging percentage currently on display from boxing’s unified light heavyweight champion of the world, Artur Beterbiev.

So, you like a guy who hits for power? This man — holder of three of the four big belts at 175 pounds — has fought 18 times as a professional boxer. He has won all 18 by knockout, the most recent coming Saturday night against a flailingly helpless Joe Smith Jr. in Top Rank action at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater.

That’s like hitting a walk-off home run 100% of the times in which you step up to the plate. That’s not possible, of course, but if it were, Beterbiev’s slugging percentage would be 4.000. For reference, all-time MLB slugging leader Babe Ruth’s career mark is .6897.

But let’s stick to the Sweet Science here. A few key facts about Beterbiev’s utterly power-hitting streak:

  • No other active world champion in boxing has a 100% knockout rate.
  • Former heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder (42-2-1, 41 KOs, 91.1%), arguably still boxing’s foremost power puncher by reputation, never once held a 100% knockout streak as a world champion — he started his career 32-0 with 32 KOs, but won the WBC title by decision; he’s since lost the strap to Tyson Fury.
  • Gervonta “Tank” Davis (27-0, 25 KOs, 92.6%), one of the unofficial knockout kings of boxing’s mid-to-lower weight classes, saw his 100% KO streak end in his sixth professional fight, more than two years before he won his first world championship.
  • Naoya Inoue (23-0, 20 KOs, 86.9%), The Ring magazine’s global pound-for-pound No. 1 and surely the most vicious knockout artist of the very lowest weight divisions, won by decision in his fourth pro fight several months before winning his first belt.
  • Perhaps a distant cousin to Beterbiev’s run is Edgar Berlanga (20-0 16 KOs, 80%), a super middleweight prospect still building towards possible title contender status. He notably started his professional career 16-0 with 16 knockouts all in the first round. However, he’s since gone on a streak of four straight decision victories — and only two of them have come against fighters even notable enough to have Wikipedia pages.

(There aren’t literally zero other 100-percenters in boxing; just none with a world title. Junior welterweight Gary Antuanne Russell (15-0, 15 KOs) could eventually be the next man up, but he’ll likely need to wait until undisputed 140-pound champion Josh Taylor moves up or moves on.)

It’s all of a piece. Not only is 175-pound king Artur Beterbiev an absolute hammer of a fighter, but he occupies a space that literally no one else in his entire sport occupies. Perhaps Babe Ruth really is the apt comparison for his power, as it exists on an order of magnitude that’s out-and-out gobsmacking due to its sheer predictability.

Unlike the Bambino, he doesn’t even bother calling his shot. But even if the King of the Sluggers — the Beterbino, if you will — had given Joe Smith Jr. that courtesy Saturday, it would have done little to delay boxing’s most thrilling inevitability.

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