October 3, 2023


Another month and we have more unification title fights. On June 18 at Madison Square Garden in New York, three versions of the world light heavyweight title were contested as Artur Beterbiev faced Joe Smith Jr.

Beterbiev comes into this fight as the WBC and IBF champion. He’s hoping to add the WBO title held by Joe Smith Jr next month.

The light heavyweight division is on fire at present. Whoever wins this unification match will be chasing another one, this time against the conqueror of Canelo Alvaraz, the WBA champion Dimitry Bovel.

Before that, there are other leading contenders who would be worthy opponents. That list includes British boxer Joshua Buatsi (a winner last weekend, odds were Joshua Buatsi: 2/11, Craig Richards: 4/1) and Callum Smith, British Gambler reports.

Joe Smith Jr is having his second fight of the year. The first was due to be with Callum Johnson but his opponent pulled out and the contest ended up being a title defence against Steve Geffrad who had been unbeaten in his last 18 fights. The challenger had no answer to Smith Jr though and was well behind on points before being stopped in the ninth round.

That took Smith Jr to a professional record of 28 wins and three defeats. He won the vacant WBO title in April 2021. That saw him defeat Maxim Vlasov on a majority points decision. Two of the three judges gave the bout to Smith Jr, with the other declaring the fight a draw.

Winning the WBC and IBF titles from Beterbiev would take him close to getting a return match against Bivol. He lost a challenge for the WBA title in 2019 losing to the champion on a unanimous decision. Two judges gave it to Bivol by ten points, the other by eight.

Now Smith Jr faces another tough match against an unbeaten rival. Artur Beterbiev has won all of his 17 professional fights. He made his debut in 2013 and there’s a rather worrying statistic for his opponent. Beterbiev hasn’t just won 17 out of 17 as a professional, every win has been achieved inside the distance.

Born in Russia, but now fighting as a Canadian as he lives in Montreal, Beterbiev won his first world title five years ago. That was when he beat Enrico Koelling for the vacant title. His record of winning every fight inside the distance nearly ended here. He stopped his opponent with just 27 seconds of the 12th round remaining.

Two years later he added the WBC title to his IBF belt in 2019. Oleksandr Gvozdk was knocked down three times in the tenth round. Beterbiev needed that knockout as he was behind on points.

Like many boxers, Beterbiev didn’t fight in 2020. He had two contests last year beating Adam Deines and Marcus Browne, both late stoppages. The latter nearly saw him lose his title due to a bad cut. He’s -400 to beat Smith Jr in June with his opponent at +300.

This is a fight between two heavy punchers so it’s unlikely it will go the distance. Beterbiev is a worthy favourite but recent fights haven’t been won too early. A real battle looks likely here with a big prize for the winner if they can secure a fight with Bivol sometime in the future.


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