Unified light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev will step back into the ring for the first time in nearly 18 months on Saturday when he defends his belts against Adam Deines at the Khodynka Ice Palace in Moscow, Russia.

Beterbiev Deines odds
Light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev (left) defends his titles against underdog Adam Deines on Saturday in Moscow. (Image: Top Rank Boxing/YouTube)

Beterbiev initially prepared to fight Deines on Jan. 30, but promoter Top Rank postponed the fight when the champion tested positive for COVID-19.

Beterbiev returns to ring after string of delays

That was the latest in a string of postponements and cancellations for the Russian. He missed a fight against Meng Fanlong last March due to the coronavirus pandemic, then postponed his bout against Deinies on Oct. 23 due to a rib injury.

Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KOs) says he’s now ready to fight and isn’t worried about ring rust.

“I have had a lot of experience with these kinds of long layoffs, unfortunately, and so I know how to deal with them,” Beterbiev said via Yahoo Sports. “I feel like there is no question that you will see my best self [on Saturday]. I am ready to perform.”

Beterbiev has won every fight of his career, and has won all of them by knockout. Naturally, oddsmakers expect more of the same on Saturday. FanDuel Sportsbook lists Beterbiev as a -3500 favorite over Deinies (+1550), and also see the champion as a massive -850 pick to win by knockout or TKO.

Deines (19-1-1, 10 KOs) doesn’t hold a reputation or a resume equal to that of Beterbiev, and this will be his first major title fight. Deines lost the highest-profile fight of his career in 2019 when Meng beat him by unanimous decision for the IBF Intercontinental title.

Could Canelo be next?

Since that time, Deines has beaten two little-known fighters, and like Beterbiev, hasn’t stepped into the ring since late 2019. But while this is a huge step up in competition for the German, Deines says he has prepared for the opportunity.

“It’s the biggest challenge in my boxing life,” Deines told RingTV. “I feel very fit, well prepared, and I’m very optimistic in my first chance to grab a world title belt. Even if it will be very difficult, I will invest everything and reward myself for all the many years of hard training. Beterbiev is a strong and tough guy with a 100% KO record, the only world champion with such a record. But he’s also only a human being with weaknesses.”

Beterbiev vs. Deines Odds (via FanDuel Sportsbook)
Artur Beterbiev: -3500 Adam Deines: +1550
Method of Victory
Beterbiev by KO/TKO: -850 Deines by KO/TKO: +2200
Beterbiev by Decision: +600 Deines by Decision: +4100
Draw: +5000

Still, the most likely outcome is another knockout victory for Beterbiev. If that occurs, the undefeated champion is targeting a bigger name for his next right: Canelo Alvarez.

“It would be no problem on my side if there’s a chance to make that fight,” Beterbiev said. “I would like to take it. That would be the kind of fight I want.”