Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr are set for a three-belt unification at light heavyweight on Saturday night on ESPN, with the two on paper all but guaranteeing a great action fight.
Will Beterbiev stay unbeaten and keep his 100 percent stoppage rate going at age 37, or can the 32-year-old Smith score another big upset in his career and surprise people all over again?
Bad Left Hook will have live coverage for Beterbiev vs Smith on Saturday, June 18, starting at 10 pm ET.
Scott Christ (39-18)
I like Smith’s chances, as far as +500 underdogs go. He’s tempting at those odds, because he can punch and Beterbiev doesn’t exactly avoid confrontation.
But I think it comes down to all-around offensive skill sets and the real estate of the fight. If Smith cracks Beterbiev at length, he’s incredibly dangerous here. If it gets into close quarters, which Beterbiev is extremely good at forcing, his still often overlooked skills should be too much for Smith, who is good at what he does, but what he does has its limits, which we’ve seen repeatedly.
People still think of Beterbiev only as a mauler, and while I think it’s fair to think of him mainly as a mauler, there is technique, skill, and intelligence to what he does. Smith can knock him out; Smith can knock anyone out if he lands the right shot. But I’m going with the smart money on Beterbiev here. He’ll wear Smith down and stop him in the back end of the fight. Beterbiev TKO-9
Wil Esco (44-13)
Once upon a time, in a live stream long forgotten, I likened Artur Beterbiev to a dire wolf fighting a greyhound. That was probably the best work I’ve ever done for the site. Joe Smith Jr isn’t a greyhound, but he’s certainly no Dire Wolf either. Mayyybe he’s a bullmastiff, but this ain’t no AKC competition, and bullmastiff gets mauled by a dire wolf in a direct confrontation. Beterbiev TKO-5
John Hansen (45-12)
This is like Inoue-Donaire all over again. Beterbiev vs Smith is an excellent fight, and a matchup that promises action and entertainment. But while Smith is a very dangerous underdog, an upset is very unlikely.
Smith is a gritty, powerful fighter, and one that’s always dangerous as long as he’s standing. Beterbiev can be hit, and there’s always the chance that Smith catches him with a finishing punch. But Beterbiev has been indomitable thus far. Never stopped, never heard an official scorecard. He is 37, but he was only 25 days shy of that the last time he fought. Beterbiev looked in top form then, and I don’t think age will have completely caught up to him in just six months.
None of that is to imply that I think Beterbiev will have an easy time of it. Joe Smith is tough as hell, and I can’t wait to see these two guys try to smash the hell out of each other. It just feels inevitable that Beterbiev will be the last one standing. Beterbiev TKO-10
Listen to our Beterbiev vs Smith preview and more on this week’s podcast!
Patrick Stumberg (46-11)
I’m as guilty as anyone of underestimating Smith in the past, but I just can’t see this as anything other than a stylistic nightmare for him. Beterbiev is by far the more adept and adaptable technician, the crisper combination puncher, and the more effective of the two at keeping his opponents on the back foot. Smith showed all sorts of defensive liabilities when Maxim Vlasov took the fight to him, not to mention a continued tendency to load up on his punches that makes them considerably slower than Beterbiev’s barrages; as soon as Beterbiev gets a head of steam going, Smith is in for an absolutely terrible time.
The big X-factor, of course, is Beterbiev’s supposed lack of durability. At the risk of sounding extremely stupid if Smith does wind up chinning him, I don’t buy it. He hit the deck after getting clipped by a solid slugger in Callum Johnson, sure, but he also handily withstood everything the division’s premier boxer-puncher at the time, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, could dish out one fight later. Smith’s telegraphed haymakers aren’t going to put a dent in that beard, and even if Smith’s too tough to go down from one shot, attrition’s going to take him out before the championship rounds. Bring on Bivol. Beterbiev TKO-8
Robeisy Ramirez vs Abraham Nova
- Scott: Ramirez TKO-5
- Wil: Ramirez UD-10
- John: Ramirez UD-10
- Patrick: Nova SD-10