INTO DEEP WATERS: Beterbiev vs Smith Jr
On Saturday, June 18, Unified WBC/IBF Light Heavyweight champ Artur Beterbiev (17-0, 17KOs) will clash with WBO champ Joe Smith Jr. (31-3, 22KOs). The fight will take place at the Hulu Theater inside Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Artur Beterbiev has been on a rampage since taking the light heavyweight scene by storm back in 2013. He really proved he belonged at the elite level when he defeated, then WBC Champ Oleksandr Gvozdyk, who was 17-0, 14KOs. Beterbiev had previously fought and beat Gvozdyk in the amateurs, in similar fashion, breaking his nose and methodically breaking him down. Some may say he took his soul in their 2nd meeting. It was the last time we would see Gvozdyk fight, hanging his gloves up after taking a vicious beating at the hands of Beterbiev. It's odd because Gvozdyk was the same guy who put Adonis Stevenson in a coma as a result of their fight. You would think he'd fight others in the division and take another crack... no dice.
The winner between Beterbiev and Smith Jr would naturally pursue a fight against WBA (Super) champ Dmitry Bivol (20-0, 11KOs) for the 175lb undisputed crown. Bivol made headlines recently after his dominating performance over p4p king Canelo Alvarez. Many wonder if Canelo will even bother with a rematch after getting thoroughly outclassed. Joe Smith Jr has faced Bivol before and lost, in what was a very one sided fight. No one wants to see that rematch. Many have wanted to see Beterbiev vs Bivol for a while now but neither side has been able to come to an agreement on the particulars.
Joe Smith Jr is known for his tenacity and big power, having knocked the legendary Bernard Hopkins out of the ring in their bout (TKO8) and effectively ending his career. He is also coming off a highlight reel KO of Steve Geffrard, who wasn't anybody to write home about but a beautiful knockout always get the attention of the fans. After the fight he went on to call out Beterbiev and Canelo. We knew he wasn't getting the payday vs Canelo. Besides, this consolidates the belts at 175 to set the stage for a huge fight: The Battle of Russia.
Beterbiev has been down only twice in his career, the first one he wasn't hurt at all. The 2nd one he was visibly wobbled but recovered quickly and scored a 4th round KO. I will post the highlights of both of those fights and the knockdowns that took place below:
This brings me to my next point. I do believe Joe Smith jr can hurt Beterbiev, but I don't believe that he can finish him. I don't think he can take the punishment that will surely come back his way. The last time Beterbiev was dropped was in 2018. Going into the Gvozdyk fight, I thought that Gvozdyk was the better boxer and had enough power and grit to hurt and finish Beterbiev. This was one of the few times that I was completely wrong. I knew it was a 50/50 fight but Beterbiev proved how tough he was and that his chin wasn't suspect and that he could take punishment and stand and trade with a real puncher. That's why I think Beterbiev comes into this fight and takes care of business and scores a KO/TKO somewhere in mid to late rounds.
Joe Smith Jr was TKO'd early in his career, back in 2014. He has come a long way since then and has showed a solid chin since, but as far as skills and versatility goes, I just don't see him doing anything to alter the course of this fight. I mean anyone with big time power can land a hail mary, but outside of that, I don't see Beterbiev having too many problems. The fight should be competitive early on. I am curious to see how long it takes Beterbiev to turn the tide and break the will of Smith Jr. This should be a good fight as far as entertainment goes. I expect a slugfest, which is why I bought tickets to go see it live. Nothing like a good barn burner.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: Beterbiev KO/TKO mid to late rounds
Vegas Odds (Caesars Sportsbook):
Smith Jr (+550)