Having dispatched WBO mandatory challenger Anthony Yarde and with his next IBF contender not yet determined, unified light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev’s next assignment comes courtesy of the WBC, which has given him until April 11th to come to terms with Callum Smith.
Though both Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KO) and WBA champion Dmitry Bivol have made clear that they want to square off for undisputed status, that doesn’t look terribly promising at the moment. Mauricio Sulaiman previously threatened to quash it due to Bivol, a California resident born in Kyrgyzstan, being Russian, and Eddie Hearn has been pushing hard for Smith (29-1, 21 KO) to get his shot while Bivol settles things with Canelo Alvarez later this year.
Smith recently withdrew from a tune-up clash with Pawel Stepien due to injury, but Hearn claims that it will only keep him out of action for “six to eight weeks.” Beterbiev will be observing Ramadan for the next month, so the timing should work out.
To be clear, Beterbiev vs Smith is an appealing, potentially explosive matchup. Smith has always been a willing slugger and his power, if anything, looks even more potent at 175 than it did at 168. It’s just frustrating to see the most blatantly obvious matchup in the division fall by the wayside, especially when Beterbiev’s struggles with Anthony Yarde suggest that time might be running out.