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Dmitry Bivol expected to face Joe Smith Jr.

Bivol would be defending his WBA light heavyweight title.

Dmitry Bivol v Isaac Chilemba Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
Wil Esco is an assistant editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2014.

According to a report from ESPN, multiple sources are confirming that light heavyweight titleholder Dmitry Bivol (15-0, 11 KOs) — and not Artur Beterbiev — is anticipated to square-off with Joe Smith Jr. (24-2, 20 KOs) in late February or early March.

Word is that Bivol is about to sign a co-promotional deal with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing which would have the WBA champion set to fight on DAZN, while Beterbiev, who was originally expected to face Smith, looks like he’ll land with Top Rank and ESPN.

Beterbiev lost a legal dispute with promoter Yvon Michel over a breach of contract claim last year, but that contract with Michel was also tied to a deal with Al Haymon. And once Haymon released Beterbiev from his contract just recently — instead of facing a potential lawsuit for breach of contract as well, for not providing enough fights to Beterbiev — Beterbiev’s contract with Michel was terminated as well. That put Beterbiev on the open market and paved way for a new deal with Top Rank.

Meanwhile Bivol began looking for a new broadcasting home once HBO bowed out of the boxing business late last year. Bivol fielded offers and was said to be mulling the decision to join either ESPN or DAZN, with him eventually settling on DAZN.

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