What to observe for when Artur Beterbiev faces Joe Smith Jr. to unify three world mild heavyweight titles


When Joe Smith Jr. narrowly defeated Maxim Vlasov in April 2021 to win the WBO mild heavyweight title, a unification bout with WBC and IBF titleholder Artur Beterbiev immediately grew to become a can’t-miss matchup.

Two of the most important punchers in boxing will meet on Saturday at New York’s Hulu Theater at Madison Sq. Backyard (10 p.m. ET on ESPN/ESPN+ with prelims on ESPN+ at 6:30 p.m. ET) in what shapes up as an explosive motion combat for so long as it lasts. Beterbiev, boxing’s solely champion with a 100% KO share, is an 8-1 favourite, in response to Caesars Sportsbook, and with good motive.

Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs), of Russia, is constantly on the cusp of the pound-for-pound record — if not within the prime 10. He’s a exact puncher who is aware of simply the place and when to put his photographs, and has the engine to hold that energy into the later rounds.

By no means was that extra on show than towards Oleksandr Gvozdyk in October 2019, a title unification Beterbiev won via 10th-round TKO after he floored his foe thrice.

However Beterbiev is 37 and confirmed vulnerability when he was knocked down by Callum Johnson in a 2018 combat. And he is been inactive, competing solely twice since he defeated Gvozdyk. And through that point, Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) has proven huge enchancment.

Listed here are three issues to observe for in Saturday’s combat for 3 175-pound titles:

Winner in prime place to face Dmitry Bivol or Canelo Alvarez

Whoever emerges along with his hand raised Saturday will probably be only one title wanting changing into the undisputed mild heavyweight champion of the world. The opposite belt, after all, is owned by Bivol, who upset boxing’s prime star, Alvarez, in Could.

Bivol-Alvarez wasn’t all that close, regardless of the scorecards, and Alvarez wisely decided to fight Gennadiy Golovkin on Sept. 17 as an alternative of a rematch with Bivol.

It would not be a shock if Alvarez pursued a second combat with Bivol subsequent 12 months. If he does, a bout matching the winner vs. Beterbiev (assuming he beats Smith) instantly turns into one of many largest fights in boxing.

Even when Alvarez does not return to 175 kilos, a combat between Bivol and Beterbiev is a mouth-watering matchup that includes two of the best boxers on the planet.

Bivol’s supervisor, Vadim Kornilov, stated in Could {that a} combat between Bivol and Beterbiev was being mentioned earlier than he landed the Alvarez matchup. There isn’t any motive it could not be revisited.

Each Beterbiev and Bivol, of Kyrgyzstan, mesh nicely style-wise, too. Bivol likes to field from the surface and use his masterful jab, however he confirmed towards Alvarez that he can string punches collectively, too. Beterbiev prefers to use strain in a seek-and-destroy model that’s way more crowd-pleasing. And he, too, owns a wonderful jab.

Bivol already defeated Smith in 2019, and the fight wasn’t all that competitive. Smith buckled Bivol on the finish of Spherical 10 however was in any other case dominated over 12 rounds.

Smith’s improved jab and massive proper hand

If the 32-year-old from Lengthy Island, New York, has any prayer towards Beterbiev, his success will probably hinge on the one-two punch.

Smith is undoubtedly heavy-handed, and he is been organising that huge proper hand much better lately with a much-improved jab.

Smith’s most-notable victory stays his KO of Bernard Hopkins that sent the then-51-year-old through the ropes and into retirement. However because the loss to Bivol, Smith opened extra eyes with maybe his finest win, a ninth-round TKO of former champion Eleider Alvarez.

And in that combat, Smith was far lighter on his ft, electing to field and use his jab fairly than brawl as he had earlier in his profession.

He also floored Jesse Hart in a decision victory in 2020.

Smith was knocked out in a six-round combat in 2010, however has proven a gentle chin towards world-class opposition. He’ll want it towards Beterbiev.

Beterbiev’s energy and strain



Artur Beterbiev knocks down Marcus Browne and finishes the combat to retain his WBC and IBF light-heavyweight titles.

Beterbiev stands atop the sunshine heavyweight division — and has for years — for a lot of causes. However none are higher than his mixture of energy and pressure-fighting all tied along with a exact jab and underrated ring smarts.

The Montreal-based boxer is extremely robust within the clinch, and when he begins rolling downhill, he is powerful to fend off. Beterbiev bloodied and pounded Marcus Browne into submission in December.

Beterbiev is at all times capable of finding the mark and does not waste power within the ring. As soon as he finds the vary along with his exact jab and begins to chop off the ring, he appears almost unattainable to cope with.

The one actual query mark is Beterbiev’s chin. Johnson, a hard-punching fringe contender, dropped him after they met, however Beterbiev rallied for the KO win. Smith is undoubtedly a tougher puncher — and higher boxer — than Johnson. And Smith additionally has the scale and energy to cope with Beterbiev on the within.

It is uncertain Smith can outbox Beterbiev over 12 rounds, however he’ll have an opportunity to land his fight-altering proper hand. After all, he’ll should get previous Beterbiev’s jab, energy and strain first, a tough puzzle nobody has come near fixing.

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