BETERBIEV VS. SMITH:
‘ONE OF THE BEST FIGHTS THAT CAN BE MADE IN BOXING’
Three belts and light heavyweight supremacy will be at stake tonight when WBC/IBF world champion Artur Beterbiev meets WBO champion Joe Smith Jr. in a highly anticipated unification showdown.
Beterbiev, boxing’s only world champion with a 100 percent knockout rate, hopes to pick up another belt against Smith, a Long Island, New York native who grew up about 70 miles from Madison Square Garden.
“Beterbiev versus Smith is one of the very best fights that can be made in boxing, two huge punchers fighting at Madison Square Garden in what will be an electric atmosphere,” said
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Whoever comes out on top will be the true king of the light heavyweight division.”
“I am thrilled we were able to put this sensational championship unification fight together,” said Joe DeGuardia, President of Star Boxing. “The top two punchers in boxing fighting each other for their three world titles. It has been brewing for a long time and is a potential fight of the year. Joe Smith Jr. is proud of his humble background and hard-working union ‘Common Man’ moniker, but he is also truly special and a real champ. He could have chosen an easier path, but he wanted the best and toughest out there, the guy everyone is afraid to fight. Credit to both champions, each fighting the toughest, hardest-punching, and most dangerous foe the division has.”
Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs), a two-time Russian Olympian, has spent his nine-year pro career based in Montreal, Canada. He has been a world champion since knocking out Enrico Koelling for the IBF title in November 2017, and has won his five defenses inside the distance since then, including an off-the-deck victory over Callum Johnson and a title unification classic versus Oleksandr Gvozdyk in 2019. Beterbiev went 2-0 in 2021, capping the year with December’s brutal ninth-round stoppage over longtime contender Marcus Browne.
“I look forward to the challenge ahead of me,” said Beterbiev. “Joe Smith Jr. is a worthy champion, but I am coming to Madison Square Garden to add another world title to my collection. This fight will get me one step closer to becoming undisputed champion. (Dmitry Bivol is the WBA titlist).”
Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) earned mainstream recognition with his 2016 knockout of living legend Bernard Hopkins and his title decision setback to Bivol in 2019. He rebounded with standout wins over Jesse Hart and Eleider Alvarez in 2020. In his second world title attempt, he outlasted Maxim Vlasov in a 2021 fight of the year contender. Smith successfully defended his world title in January with a ninth-round stoppage over late replacement Steve Geffrard.
“I am extremely excited and focused on this task I have ahead,” said Smith. “Facing Beterbiev is huge. It is going to be a fight that fans remember forever, with two of the biggest punches in boxing today facing off. This opportunity is a dream of mine to accomplish. Fighting with three titles on the line is one step closer to becoming undisputed.”