1.5 months after the pair agreed to terms, the long-overdue light heavyweight unification between WBC/IBF champion Artur Beterbiev and WBO champion Joe Smith Jr. is officially set to hit Madison Square Garden’ Hulu Theater on June 18th.
The fight marks Beterbiev’s (17-0, 17 KO) sixth title defense since smashing Enrico Koelling for the vacant IBF belt in 2017 and his third since adding the WBC belt to his collection with a 2019 knockout of Oleksandr Gvozdyk. Smith (28-1, 20 KO), meanwhile, makes his second appearance as champion, having stopped late replacement Steve Geffrard in January. It’s an excellent matchup even without considering the stakes, pitting arguably the premier knockout artist in the spot against an inordinately tough and relentless foe.
“I look forward to the challenge ahead of me. Joe Smith Jr. is a worthy champion, but I am coming to Madison Square Garden to add another world title to my collection,” Beterbiev said. “This fight will get me one step closer to becoming undisputed champion.”
Smith said, “I am extremely excited and focused on this task I have ahead. Facing Beterbiev is huge. It is going to be a fight that fans remember forever, with two of the biggest punches in boxing today facing off. This opportunity is a dream of mine to accomplish. Fighting with three titles on the line is one step closer to becoming undisputed.”
The ESPN broadcast will also see a super-intriguing clash of featherweight prospects between two-time Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez (9-1, 5 KO) and undefeated Abraham Nova (21-0, 15 KO). Ramirez hasn’t tasted defeat since a later-avenged decision loss in his pro debut, while Nova’s won two straight since a torn Achilles kept him on the sidelines for more than a year.
Ramirez said, “I have always wanted to display my talent on a stage as important as the iconic Madison Square Garden in New York City. Come June 18, I will not only take advantage of this big opportunity, but I will also hand Nova the first loss of his career. I’m going to take a big leap in my quest to become world champion, and above all, showcase my class and give boxing fans another great performance. I will make clear that ‘El Tren’ is a true powerhouse in the featherweight division.”
Nova said, “Robeisy is a great talent, and he’s the fighter that will get me to that next level. I need a statement victory. Beating a two-time gold medalist puts me right in the title picture. The better the competition, the better I look. Nobody has seen the best of me yet, and I will show that on June 18.”
The ESPN+ undercard features familiar faces like Bruce Carrington (3-0, 2 KO), Jahi Tucker (7-0, 4 KO), Troy Isley (5-0, 3 KO), Kurt Walker (2-0, 1 KO), and Kieran Molloy (1-0, 1 KO).