There is no doubt that light heavyweight Artur Beterbiev is on the fast track.
Although he has fought only seven times as a professional, he is 30 and is very experienced after a superb amateur career, highlighted by appearances in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics for his native Russia. He then relocated to Montreal to turn pro and has had all of his pro bouts in Quebec.
In his sixth fight, Beterbiev destroyed former titleholder Tavoris Cloud in two rounds in September. Cloud had lost before, but never in such one-sided fashion.
Now Beterbiev (7-0, 7 KOs) is taking on another experienced former titleholder, 36-year-old Spanish southpaw Gabriel Campillo (25-6-1, 12 KOs). Campillo is still a solid contender, and he will meet Beterbiev on Saturday in the co-feature of CBS’s first “Premier Boxing Champions” card (3 p.m. ET) at the Pepsi Coliseum in Quebec City. Light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson defends his crown in the main event against Sakio Bika.
The winner of the Beterbiev-Campillo elimination fight will earn the No. 2 ranking in a sanctioning body and move a step closer to a mandatory world title bout.
Beterbiev is supremely confident going into the fight.
"I don't think this is a big challenge for me,” he said at this week’s final news conference. “I'm ready to face the world champions and raise the bar higher. This is just another opponent for me.
"This is another step that will move me closer to facing the champions at 175 pounds. I want to put on a solid fight and show that I'm one of the best fighters in this division.
“A knockout is never a goal for me. I'm trying to show my work and my dedication in the ring, but usually that's what happens. Usually I finish with a knockout, but that is not my main goal. My main goal is to box and show my skills. My motivation is to face the champions. That's why I work so hard every day in the gym. I will get there soon.”
Eventually, Beterbiev would like to challenge unified titleholder Sergey Kovalev.
"Why not face Kovalev? I'm ready,” Beterbiev said. “When I turned professional my goal was to meet the champions. He's a champion now and I'd like to face the champions."
If the fight ever comes to pass, it will not be their first meeting. Beterbiev says he defeated Kovalev twice in the amateur ranks.
“I have a very good memory. I did beat him twice in the amateur ranks, but I'm more focused on the future right now,” he said. “I would like to beat him again.”
Campillo is first, however.
"Beterbiev may not have a lot of professional experience, but he's had a very long amateur career,” Campillo said. “So we know that he's ready and is a good opponent for us. We'll see how he handles things once we get past the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds.
"To get ready for a hard hitter like Beterbiev required lots of conditioning training. We worked the neck and the chin a lot. We think we've got a great chance in the second half of this fight, though, considering Beterbiev hasn't really been tested like that. As for a prediction, I'm going to knock Beterbiev out in the seventh round."
Beterbiev was knocked down in his last fight -- his second-round knockout of Jeff Page in December -- although Beterbiev disagrees that it was an authentic knockdown.
“I don't think that was a knockdown. I just lost my balance for an instant,” he said. “I recovered right away, instantly. But I still think that this is a good lesson for me for this not to happen in the future. And I'm going to try to avoid any dangerous situations in my future.”