Artur Beterbiev once again showed his dominance, smashing Joe Smith Jr inside of two rounds to unify a trio of light heavyweight world titles tonight at New York’s Hulu Theater.
The pro-Smith crowd were left in pretty much stunned silence as Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KO) dropped Smith (28-4, 22 KO) late in the first round, then three times in the second, before the fight was called off at 2:19 of round two.
Smith, 32, was just never given a chance to really get into the fight. He did come close to landing some big leather in the first round, but never fully got there, and the 37-year-old Beterbiev’s technical superiority combined with his thudding power was just way too much for the tough and brave Smith to handle.
And make no mistake: Joe Smith Jr is a good fighter, came in with the WBO light heavyweight title, and had never been dropped let alone stopped in his career. This was a reflection of how good Beterbiev really is.
The ideal fight now, of course, would be a full, undisputed unification against Dmitry Bivol. The current plan Matchroom have laid out included Bivol returning in September or October, near Canelo Alvarez’s trilogy fight with Gennadiy Golovkin, to set up a Bivol vs Canelo rematch in May 2023.
But Bivol, who has the WBA belt, has said he wants the undisputed fight badly, and given how little tonight took out of Beterbiev, there’s really no reason to fully write off that fight happening in September or October as things stand, maybe even November if you want just a bit more time on the Beterbiev side. It’s the fight to make at 175 lbs, a clear No. 1 vs No. 2, whichever order you have them, or 1-A vs 1-B, whatever. It’s also, on paper, a fascinating style matchup.
And it’s also worth noting that Eddie Hearn didn’t totally dismiss the Beterbiev fight as a possibility when he spoke about Bivol’s situation three weeks ago. It would require Matchroom and Top Rank to work together, but I think that can be done; it’s easily the biggest fight Beterbiev will have available, and I think both sides would be very confident in their guy.
“I need a little bit more time (to feel what this means),” Beterbiev said. “Right now, I don’t feel it. In a couple of days, I will understand.”
“I want to be a good boxer one day, maybe,” he added. “My coach tells me it’s not far to become a good boxer.”
“Joe is a little bit open, and it’s easy to me to get to him,” he said. “We’re two fighters who both have a good punch, and we both tried to land first. This time, I was lucky, I got him first. That’s it.”
The other fight potentially on the table is WBO mandatory challenger Anthony Yarde, who was in attendance and has said he’s been told Beterbiev would go to London for the fight.
“Unification fights are more interesting and motivating,” Beterbiev said. “I would prefer to be undisputed.”