IBF and WBC Artur Beterbiev light heavyweight champion, is a dangerous beast. He has been in the ring 17 times as a professional and scored 17 knockouts. Beterbiev is a constant force.
Joe Smith Jr., the WBO titleholder, is a hard-working fighter who has worked his way up from nothing to earn light heavyweight honors. Smith is all about determination and guts.
Smith and Beterbiev will meet at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Saturday, June 18.
Russian-born Beterbiev is a two-time Olympian. At the 2012 Olympics, he lost a fight to Oleksandr Usyk, a super-talented heavyweight champion.
At 28, Beterbiev became a professional fighter, capturing the IBF lightweight heavyweight title in his 12th fight. He got off the deck to knock out Callum Johnson in his first defence. Beterbiev was forced to rally to stop Oleksandr Vzdyk, the WBC titleholder.
The 37-year-old defeated Adam Deines in 2021. He also ignored a deep cut and his blood to defeat Marcus Browne in round 10.
"Joe Smith Jr., a worthy champion. But I am coming to Madison Square Garden to add another title to my collection." Beterbiev said he was looking forward to the challenge a few weeks back at a press conference.
Smith's right hand won the fight in just over two minutes, having been brought in to challenge Andrzej Fofara in 2016. Next came Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins, who seemed to love calling Smith "Common" and referring to the big underdog Smith-like "Common." Smith delivered his vengeance with a ferocious performance, knocking Hopkins out of the ring. A broken jaw derailed his effort against Sullivan Barrera eight months later.
Smith, a Long Island native, still had a chance to face WBA champion Dmitry Bivol in 2019 but was defeated by wide margins.
What now? Smith returned to his union laborer job. He started his own company soon afterwards with his father.
He could have walked away from boxing if he wanted.
There is no way.
Smith was up against Jesse Hart, a high-ranking contender in 2020. It was a match that could decide the fate of Smith. Hart was heavily preferred. Hart was heavily favored to beat Smith, who knocked Hart down and won the fight via split decision. Smith must beat Eleider Alvarez, the former champion.
Smith stopped Alvarez in round nine. Smith won his second title shot last year. Maxim Vlasov, Smith's opponent, fought tooth and nail to win a highly contested victory.
"Beterbiev, a big name in boxing. Two world titles are his, and I want them. This fight is going to be amazing, I think. You've got two big punchers." Smith stated, "This is an enormous opportunity."
Beterbiev is a 12-to-1 favorite. Smith, 32 years old, is five years younger than Beterbiev. Will it matter? Did Beterbiev appear to be getting older in his two last fights? He looked less sharp even though he won convincingly.
Smith will need to do his best to beat Beterbiev. Although his defense has improved over time, Beterbiev's strength can still bludgeon an adversary.
Will Smith be able to take it when Beterbiev cranks up the heat?
Find out on Saturday Night from the Big Apple