On Saturday, IBF, WBC and WBO light heavyweight titleholder Artur Beterbiev will put his belts on the line against dangerous former super middleweight ruler Callum Smith at Videotron Center, Quebec City, Canada.
The two will meet in what promises to be a shootout on ESPN, the event begins at 10 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT and on Sky Sports in the U.K. at 3 a.m.
Beterbiev, rated at No. 2 by The Ring at light heavyweight, was a standout amateur, winning gold at the 2009 World Championships and competing at the 2012 Olympics. The physically-imposing Russian moved quickly as a professional. He won the IBF light heavyweight title, stopping Enrico Koelling (KO 12) and defended against Callum Johnson (KO 4) and Radivoje Kalajdzic (KO 5). His breakout win came against then-WBC titleholder Oleksandr Gvozdyk (TKO 10) in a unification bout.
The 38-year-old marked time against Adam Deines (TKO 10) and Marcus Browne (KO 9) before demolishing WBO counterpart Joe Smith Jr. (TKO 2) and showed his toughness to beatdown Anthony Yarde (TKO 8).
Smith, rated at No. by The Ring at light heavyweight, won the British and European super middleweight titles in impressive fashion and got his big break in the WBSS. He defeated Erik Skoglund (UD 12) and late substitute Nieky Holzken (UD 12) to earn safe passage to the final where he stopped George Groves (KO 7) to become Ring magazine champion and WBA titleholder. The Englishman struggled to capitalize on that momentum, easily defeating the undersized Hassan N’dam N’Jikam (TKO 3) and laboring against John Ryder (UD 12) in subsequent title defenses before losing to boxing superstar Canelo Alvarez (UD 12).
The 33-year-old has since moved up to 175-pounds and won both outings and looks a real threat.
Beterbiev (19-0, 19 knockouts) suffered a jaw injury that lead to the initial August date being moved back. How has the jaw healed up and how much confidence does he have in it? Smith (29-1, 21 KOs) hasn’t fought in 17 months, not the best preparation heading into such a big fight. Will he show any signs of ring rust? With his 39th birthday looming, can Beterbiev find that big effort to see him across the finish line? When Smith stepped up to face Canelo he was found wanting, this is his chance to put that very much in the rearview mirror, can he do that?
Online gambling group William Hill lists Beterbiev as a 2/9 (-450) favorite, while Smith is priced at 13/4 (+325); the draw is 16/1 (+1600).
Here’s how the experts see it:
ANSON WAINWRIGHT: SMITH TKO 7
“An excellent fight. Beterbiev has been a monster at light heavyweight and Smith looks a force of nature since he stepped up. For me, it’s a pick ’em fight and you could easily make a case for either man.Is Beterbiev showing signs of wear and tear? Will Smith be ring rusty? I’m hoping for a Beterbiev win, nothing against Smith, as it looks like Beterbiev has an agreement in principal with Dmitry Bivol, which is a fight I’ve wanted to see for undisputed for the longest time. However, I don’t think we’ll see it though, I have a feeling Smith upsets Beterbiev and instead inserts himself in position to face Bivol. Both Beterbiev and Smith are heavy handed. But I think Smith has a little more about him than Anthony Yarde, who gave Beterbiev a really hard nights work. Since then, he’s had a jaw injury that required surgery. Smith can’t start slowly, that will allow Beterbiev to put hands on him and make his mark early. I think Smith will land something significant and hurt and maybe drop Beterbiev early. He’ll then grow in confidence and hurt the defending champion and pounce on him and force the referee to jump in in the seventh round.”
LEE GROVES: BETERBIEV KO 11
“Smith’s considerable advantages in youth, height and wingspan as well as his educated jab and his power surge at 175 makes victory a definite possibility. However, those assets will be counteracted by Smith’s nearly 17-month layoff and the fact that he is a more hittable target than he should be. Smith will probably win the early rounds, but Beterbiev’s trademark mid-fight surge, boulder-like hands and underrated ring generalship will eventually earn him his 20th KO in 20 pro fights.”
DIEGO MORILLA: BETERBIEV KO 10
“Records don’t tell the whole story, but there are exceptions. This is one of those situations. Beterbiev is a monster who never fails to impress, and this is his chance to grab the spotlight and finally get all the credit he thinks he deserves – and with good reason. Dmitry Bivol’s win over Canelo Alvarez shifted the attention of the entire division to Beterbiev’s fellow Russian titlist, but a knockout win over Smith could change that. Callum is a solid and skilled fighter who can make the fight interesting for a few rounds, but I expect Beterbiev to score a stoppage win that will put his career in high gear and set up the Ring championship fight with Bivol that we’re all waiting for.”
MARTY MULCAHEY: BETERBIEV KO
“I was an early backer of Callum Smith, but both a lack of recent activity and his result against a truly elite boxer in Canelo Alvarez dissuaded me here. Beterbiev has an elite skillset and more power than Alvarez; I expect both to make their mark early in this fight. An early knockdown and aggressive follow-up will put Smith on his back foot, but not out of danger. I don’t expect a clean knockout, but either Smith’s corner or the referee will stop the bout before it reaches double digits in rounds. I would wager KO by 7th or 9th round.”
RON BORGES: BETERBIEV TKO 9
“Callum Smith is a tough guy and a worthy opponent. His problem is Beterbiev is a BEAST. Eventually, one night, he ill meet his match. But this is not the night or the match. Beterbiev by ninth-round stoppage.”
NORM FRAUENHEIM: BETERBIEV TKO 10
“Beterbiev is 38 and will be 39 a week after opening bell. He’s almost middle-aged. But he’s still perfect, and the guess here is that he’ll be able to celebrate that perfection all over again on his Jan. 21st birthday. Callum Smith is capable enough. His versatile skillset is a threat to just about anybody. But Beterbiev. at just about any age, is not just anyone. Smith has never encountered this blend of precision and power, which is complemented by a predatory instinct. He knows how to finish and when to finish. It accounts for his record — 19 fights, 19 victories, 19 stoppages. Nothing figures to change that, not even another birthday just days after he fights to go 20-0, all by KO.”
DUKE MCKENZIE (FORMER THREE-DIVISION TITLEHOLDER/TV ANALYST): BETERBIEV TKO 10
“While I definitely see chinks in the armour in Beterbiev, he should have enough to see off Smith. While the champion Beterbiev has the perfect 19 wins no defeats, all by KO – at 38 years old you can grow old overnight in this business. The champion is a predator, he will almost certainly target the body of Smith before switching the attack to the head. He won’t be distracted with talk of a unification fight with the quite brilliant WBA boss Bivol – that’s the golden chalice. Smith, who was the former world champion at super middleweight, was crushed by Canelo and for me Beterbiev is better than Canelo – bold statement, I know. This will be over by the 10th round. Beterbiev by TKO.”
STEVE FARHOOD (TV ANALYST): BETERBIEV TKO
“While Beterbiev often takes a bit of time to get started, he is the closest thing in boxing to a pure BEAST. Callum will trouble him for a few rounds, but I prefer Smith at 168, as opposed to 175. Smith is tough enough, as he proved against Canelo. Nonetheless, in terms of punching power at this weight, Canelo is no Beterbiev. Beterbiev by late-round stoppage.”
TOM GRAY (FORMER MANAGING EDITOR FOR THE RING): SMITH TKO6
“I’m going against the grain here, but I’ll make an earnest attempt to justify the pick. Beterbiev is a terrific fighter and anyone involved in boxing knows that. However, I do believe that his fierce reputation and 100-percent knockout ratio frequently glosses over the flaws. The unified champ is 38-years old, he is hittable, he’s been off his feet before, and Anthony Yarde’s punches backed him up than once in his most recent fight. When Smith is at his best he scores with shots that opponent’s don’t see. He’s punching very well at 175 pounds and I think Beterbiev’s aggression will work against him here. A lot of people reference the Liverpool man’s loss to Canelo, but it’s apples and oranges. Canelo was the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world at that time and he imposed his boxing skills on Smith. This is a different kind of fighter altogether and I’m rolling with the underdog.”
JOE ROTONDA (MATCHMAKER, MAIN EVENTS): BETERBIEV TKO 4
“Callum Smith is a good fighter who represents himself very well, he has a solid jab, he’s always in shape, and he’ll come into this fight with a sizeable height and reach advantage. Beterbiev has been elite at 175-pounds for years now, with his only downfall being his inactivity. Luckily for him, his opponent hasn’t been in the ring much either. This will be Smith’s first fight in about 17 months, and he has only fought six rounds in over a two year span. Artur Beterbiev is not someone who will allow his opponent to shake off the ring rust in the early rounds. I expect Beterbiev to put pressure on Smith early on, getting him out of there comfortably before the midway point of this fight. Artur Beterbiev by fourth-round TKO.”
ROBERT DIAZ (MATCHMAKER): SMITH SD
“Power vs experience, I like this fight. Beterbiev has knocked out everyone he has faced. Smith is hungry, and even though he was clearly shut out by Canelo Alvarez a few years ago, I believe he learned a lot in that fight, and that will help him in this bout. Beterbiev is the strongest Smith has faced but I believe the key here will be patience he gained with experience. Smith must keep at a distance and not allow Beterbiev to cut off the ring and he needs to stay off the ropes. He must keep moving and use his jab double and even triple it up. I see a tactical fight in the first half and in the second half Smith will take more chances and Beterbiev tires out. In the end, I will go against the odds: Smith by 12-round split decision.”
OLEKSANDR GVODZYK (FORMER LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT TITLIST): BETERBIEV TKO
“I saw only one fight of Smith, against Canelo, and I didn’t see any competition. Smith is a rangy guy, but doesn’t really like using his advantage. Beterbiev is physically stronger than Canelo, and he will find out how to get to in a comfortable distance from Smith. Then you will see pretty much the same picture as you saw in Beterbiev’s last five fights. He will break Smith down. Unless Smith lands something big (possibly drops Beterbiev), but this scenario seems to be close to impossible. We will see. Who knows? Maybe all of sudden Beterbiev would show some signs of fading, like what people say about his performance against Yarde. But I think it was just underestimation. Beterbiev will stop him.”
RICH MAROTTA (COMMENTATOR): BETERBIEV TKO 6
“I can imagine of no more terrifying prospect in boxing today than climbing into the ring to face off against Artur Beterbiev. That’s the frightening prospect facing Callum Smith, who is in fact, a very good fighter, with a very good punch. All of Artur’s fights seem the same to me, relentless beatdowns from the opening bell to when the opponent inevitably falls. Smith does have some things working for him, good ring generalship, and a very powerful punch. One of the things Smith does best is a counter left hook with power, which could be very effective in this fight if Beterbiev lunges forward. In fact, that punch and his sneaky right are going to have to land, and land with effect, to get some respect from Beterbiev and slow down his assault some. However, I suspect that Callum will be susceptible to the bullying tactics of Beterbiev. His punches will lose sharpness along the way. Once that happens, Beterbiev will have things all his way, and will pummel Smith into submission in six rounds.”
TONY SIMS (TRAINER): SMITH
“I think Smith has great chance of winning. We see Yarde have a great fight with Beterbiev, and until the finish (Yarde) was up on the cards. Callum is a world class fighter and puncher, he has all the attributes to win this fight. I go for Smith either late stoppage or points.”
JOLENE MIZZONE (MANAGER): BETERBIEV TKO 10
“I think that Beterbiev is the better fighter in this fight and I think that he fought the better opposition, which plays a big part. Beterbiev is also the true light heavyweight. With that said, I think Smith will give Beterbiev some problems, but once he feels Beterbiev power his game plans will change. I think it is going to be a slow fight in the beginning, but like Beterbiev does he will bring in on towards the end of the fight. Beterbiev TKO 10.”
RUDY HERNANDEZ (TRAINER): BETERBIEV KO
“Beterbiev is a beast, he has a great eye to find openings. Smith has good skills and is there to fight. The fact that Smith is there and fights put him in the danger zone. Unfortunately, we’ll never know how good Beterbiev could’ve been since he’s now older and started late as a pro. I like Beterbiev by knockout, I just hope he doesn’t get old on fight night.”
VADIM KORNILOV: (MANAGER): BETERBIEV TKO
“A very good and competitive fight. Both boxers have experience and pedigree. I think Beterbiev’s power can make the difference in this fight. If I have to make a prediction, then yes, Beterbiev by stoppage.”
ALEX STEEDMAN (COMMENTATOR): BETERBIEV KO
“There’s no doubt Beterbiev is creaking, nearing the end of a remarkable career. There for the taking is perhaps overstating it, but he’s starting to look a little more human. And Callum Smith can really bang. But Smith was dominated by Canelo when he stepped up, and that perspective is at the forefront of my mind. Smith invites pressure, perhaps naturally as a sharp, fast counter puncher, and we know Beterbiev produces heavy, suffocating intimidation. They could me made for each other. Initially I thought the timing of this would favour Smith but now I’m sensing it’s simply about levels and quality. So Beterbiev gets the vote in a classy shootout but I won’t be surprised at all if it’s the other way round.“
WAYNE MCCULLOUGH (FORMER WORLD CHAMPION/ TRAINER): BETERBIEV KO 9
“If Callum Smith can use his range and work his long left jabs followed by rights to the head, he can keep the power puncher Beterbiev from coming in close. However, Beterbiev will want to get close to the taller Smith and try to land short rights and left hooks to his opponent’s head, and if he catches Smith it could be over early. I think Smith is tough enough to stay in the fight for a while and will have success, but Beterbiev will probably catch him with a left hook to the chin and get a knockout around the ninth.”
RAUL MARQUEZ (FORMER WORLD CHAMPION/COMMENTATOR): BETERBIEV TKO 10
“Smith is rugged, tough and has a puncher’s chance, but skill-wise Beterbiev is overall the better boxer. I’m going with Beterbiev in late round stoppage. Beterbiev in round 10.”
DANIEL AZEEZ (LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CONTENDER): BETERBIEV TKO
“Stylistically it’s a great fight, both fighters are big punchers and both fighters have underrated ring smarts. I can envisage Callum boxing and catching Artur maybe coming in and I can also envisage Artur wearing down Callum with power and pressure. One thing I can’t envisage is for both to hear the last bell! My brain says Artur, my heart says Callum. I’ll go with Artur.”
Final Tally: Beterbiev 17-4
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].