All the pieces appear to be set for a three-belt light heavyweight unification match. Top Rank promotes both WBC/IBF champ Artur Beterbiev and WBO champ Joe Smith Jr, and the WBC announced late last month that Bob Arum intended to stage the fight on September 18th. Now, however, Mike Coppinger reports that Smith may have other plans, as he’s “finalizing a two-fight deal” to face mandatory challenger Umar Salamov in “October or November” and then Daniel Jacobs in “January or February.”
Coppinger does, however, claim the deal “isn’t yet agreed to.”
It would be monumentally disappointing to see Smith (27-3, 21 KO) take this route; even putting aside the belts at play, he and Beterbiev (16-0, 16 KO) could very easily put on a Fight of the Year. There’s nowhere near as much appeal in Salamov, who was supposed to fight Maxim Vlasov for the right to face Smith before pandemic-based travel restrictions came into play, and Jacobs barely beat Gabe Rosado last time out.
I’m not saying I don’t see the reasoning; Smith arguably lost to Vlasov in April and his management might not be keen to throw him in with Beterbiev before he’s had a chance to try and get a reign going, especially when the Jacobs fight alone is probably far more lucrative. Still, considering how much crap Beterbiev’s had to wade through in his career, it would suck to see another mishap outside of his control.