By Jim Maltzman: Top Rank promoter Bob Arum plans on matching IBF/WBC light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev against WBO champ Joe Smith Jr in Autumn [September 22 through December 21] in a unification match at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Speaking with TASS, Arum is hoping to make the fight between the unbeaten Beterbiev (16-0, 16 KOs) and the newly crowned WBO champion Smith Jr (27-3, 21 KOs) in front of a crowd at MSG in New York.
Whether the fight can occur in front of fans will depend on the pandemic and the local government in New York giving the green light.
That’s such a big fight between Beterbiev and Smith Jr. It would be a disappointment if the two don’t have a large crowd to watch their fight, which has a lot of interest from boxing fans worldwide.
Canelo Alvarez and his trainer Eddy Reynoso have expressed interest in facing Beterbiev next year if he defeats Smith and WBA light heavyweight champion Dimitry Bivol.
Beterbiev will have a hard time winning those two fights against Smith and Bivol (18-0, 11 KOs) to get to the Canelo match-up next year.
In Beterbiev’s last fight, he stopped Adam Deines in the 10th round last March. It wasn’t one of the two-time Olympian Beterbiev’s better performances, but he was coming off injuries and a case of COVID.
Most fans would agree that the Beterbiev that stopped Oleksandr Gvozdyk in 2019 would be too much for Smith Jr, but we don’t know if Artur is the same fighter now that he was then.
Beterbiev did not look good at all against Deines, and the thing that carried him to victory was his punching power. He still has a lot of power, but his defense, stamina, and skills didn’t look anywhere near what they’d been years earlier.
Smith, 28, beat Maxim Vlasov by a 12 round majority decision last April to win the vacant World Boxing Organization 175-lb title. Many fans thought Vlasov deserved the win over Smith, but the judges were impressed with his late surge.
If not for Smith’s strong rally in the championship rounds, he would have gone down to defeat. Smith is usually powerful, but he’s not the most skilled fighter, especially on defense.
That was a hard fight for Smith, as Vlasov put a lot of pressure on him and used his size to give the New Yorker all he could handle.
Both Beterbiev and Smith will need to fight at a higher level for them to win this match.