QUEBEC CITY — Twenty up and twenty down.
Artur Beterbiev kept his flawless knockout percentage alive, dropping and stopping the overmatched Callum Smith in seven rounds on Saturday at Centre Videotron in Quebec City, Canada.
The time of stoppage was 2:00, as Smith’s trainer Buddy McGirt stepped into the ring to end the bloodletting, awarding Beterbiev (20-0, 20 knockouts) the win, as he retained his IBF, WBC and WBO light heavyweight titles. Smith (29-2, 21 KOs) falls to his second defeat, and first ever by stoppage.
Beterbiev, 38, of Montreal, Canada by way of Khasavyurt, Russia looked like he was in an underwhelming sparring session, touching the 33-year-old Smith of Liverpool, England with power punches whenever he felt like. Beterbiev treated the bout, his eighth defense of his 175-pound belts, like he was taking the air out of ball slowly, until a deflated piece of rubber was left on the floor.
HE DOES IT AGAIN.
The man at Light Heavyweight @ABeterbiev 🏆 pic.twitter.com/qXo8zQmzJd
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) January 14, 2024
“We had a couple strategies. We always have more than one. We need to be prepared for several strategies. He gave me a good fight. He stayed strong. Thanks to him. Today, luck is on my side,” said Beterbiev, who is rated No. 2 at 175 pounds by The Ring.
Beterbiev got off to a quick start, imposing himself on the much taller Smith in the opening moments. Smith, despite standing 6-foot-3, looked intent on trading punches in close quarters, much to his detriment. Smith had a better second round, but his head seemed to pop up every time he was hit by a jab or right hand from Beterbiev.
The fight quickly began going downhill in Round 4, when Beterbiev pinned Smith to the ropes and rocked him with body shots and right hands in close.
Beterbiev finally ended matters in the seventh, when a right-hand stunned Smith, and a follow-up shot put him on the canvas. Smith rose up but was a sitting duck from that point on, hitting the canvas again to end the bout.
The win clears the way for Beterbiev to face WBA light heavyweight titleholder Dmitry Bivol in a much-anticipated undisputed championship fight. Beterbiev’s promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank told ESPN after the fight that Beterbiev, who is Muslim, will be ready to face Bivol three months after Ramadan, which ends in mid-April, putting the timeline for that showdown in July.
“It’s not done yet. But absolutely we want to do it,” said Arum about Beterbiev-Bivol. “I’ll be talking to my friend His Excellency Turki Alalshikh. I know he wants to do it, but Ramadan is coming. So, about three months after the end Ramadan we’ll be ready to fight Dmitry Bivol, probably in Riyadh [Saudi Aarabia].”
“Yes, of course,” answered Beterbiev when asked about a fight with Bivol (22-0, 11 KOs). “I need another belt. It would mean a lot to me.”
The fight was Beterbiev’s first since his eighth-round TKO of Anthony Yarde last January. The Beterbiev-Smith fight was originally scheduled for this past August but was postponed due to a bone infection in Beterbiev’s jaw which required surgery.
Smith, a former Ring Magazine super middleweight champion, had won his previous two fights since his loss to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in September of 2021.
Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler and The Guardian, and is part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected].
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