SO, WHO is the novice from Barnsley who’s helping Artur Beterbiev prepare to defend his light-heavyweight belts against Anthony Yarde in London?
Manager Kevin Maree calls Callum Simpson “the best prospect in the country, bar none,” predicts he will beat Ben Whittaker in a fight that British boxing needs. Better still, Beterbiev is also a fan of the 26-year-old Central Area super-middleweight champion.
Simpson (10-0) and stablemate Billy Deniz (7-0) headed to Canada to spar Beterbiev before Christmas – and were invited back.
“They said to me, ‘A lot of fighters get out after one round, they can’t take his power,’” said Simpson in between visits to Montreal, where he was sparring the world champion.
“But I was challenging him and they asked me to come back after Christmas. They said we were perfect sparring. I’m fast, quite powerful and have the shoulder-roll defence and Billy has the same posture as Yarde and is fast and strong. The most important thing is, we are both very game. We don’t shy away from a challenge.”
Simpson says sparring Beterbiev is a real challenge.
“Believe the hype!” he said of the 37-year-old who’s won all 18 fights inside the distance and has held some world belt or other since November, 2017.
“You can see why he’s had all those knockouts and why some people get in there to spar him, take a few shots and then jump straight back out again. He’s a complete boxer, but the main thing is his power. He is so strong and he lands clubbing punches.”
Simpson, who has stropped his last eight opponents inside the distance himself, was careful not to give away too many secrets of Beterbiev’s secrets when talking to Boxing News.
He said: “As soon as I got there, he [Beterbiev] said something to his trainer [Marc Ramsay]. He wanted to know why they had brought two English guys over. He wanted to know if we knew Yarde and if I was his spy! I told him we didn’t know him. I didn’t want him to get mad!”
Simpson described Beterbiev as “very disciplined” and added: “The fact they asked me back tells you something. They don’t have mugs over there.”
Maree rates Simpson highly, saying: “In my opinion, he’s the best prospect in the country, bar none.
“He has been sparring at my gym since he was a young lad and I’ve got him boxing regularly now. Promotionally, he’s a free agent, but we won’t sign anything unless it’s right for Callum. We need a promoter who thinks he’s as special as I do.
“Looking at the three main promoters, BT Sport would make him their flagship fighter after Yarde and Fury move on, Eddie Hearn would love his looks and personality and make him a global star and BOXXER could make a fight with Ben Whittaker.
“They are both young stars who need a dance partner and to me, it has the look of a Nigel Benn-Chris Eubank rivalry.
“Whittaker is flashy and flamboyant and Callum is a down-to-earth, snarling knockout machine. I think people thought Eubank had a twinkle in his eye, but I’m not sure the public will warm to Whittaker in the same way they warmed to him. He comes across as arrogant.
“There was talk of Adam Azim and Dalton Smith fighting, but that seems unlikely now Dalton has committed his future to Matchroom and boxing needs domestic rivalries for the fans to get excited about. They could even match Ben and Callum early in their careers, the way they did with George Groves and James DeGale.
“Callum Simpson-Ben Whittaker would be a huge fight – and Callum Simpson would win it.”
Simpson made the step up to championship level in his last fight, stopping Ben Ridings (5-2) for the vacant Central Area belt in his first fight at 168lbs in October.
“He hadn’t been stopped before,” said Simpson, “and I thought it would be harder than it was. Ben said afterwards I was the best he’s been in with and he’s been in with (former Great Britain amateur international) Thomas Whittaker-Hart.
“I don’t have that one-punch knockout power, but I don’t think people I get in the ring with expect me to put together as many punches as I do and stay on them.”
Simpson starts fast as well. The Mark Hurley-trained puncher has had five wins inside a round since making his pro debut in June, 2019.
He turned over after 53 amateur bouts. Simpson never got beyond the quarter-finals of any championships and said: “I was sparring pros from the age of 15, people like Mark Heffron and Lyndon Arthur, and that really brought me on.”
Imagine what he’ll be like after sparring Beterbiev.