The much anticipated World Light-Heavyweight championship bout between undefeated unified IBF/WBC/WBO world champion Artur Beterbiev and former WBA Super-Middleweight world champion and WBC number one Light-Heavyweight contender Callum Smith, in addition to being an intriguing battle between two fighters with punching power, was anticipated largely because the fight, which was supposed to take place during 2023, but was delayed because of a dental infection suffered by the champion. By allowing the fight to simmer, albeit unintentionally, it also allowed the fight to take place with the potential of the winner to face undefeated unified WBA/IBO champion Dmitry Bivol for the Undisputed Light-Heavyweight championship of the world.
Although it is no secret to those who follow the sport of Boxing that the potential of an encounter between Beterbiev and Bivol has been discussed for years at this point, it is in some ways disrespectful to any opponent when there is at least an expectation of a fight being in the works for a champion before that opponent gets their opportunity to fight said champion. Nevertheless, Callum Smith entered the Videotron Centre on January 13th in Quebec City, Canada, Beterbiev's adopted home country to challenge the champion with one agenda, to try and upset the apple card of whatever might have been in the pipeline for the Beterbiev later this year.
Despite a tactical start between the two fighters where both fighters, who were each coming off lengthy stretches of inactivity due to this bout being delayed, started slowly, the primary difference in this fight was the punching power of Beterbiev as well as the pressure he was able to apply on Smith. Smith was able to have success periodically in landing combinations flush on Beterbiev, but he could not stop the pattern that developed in which the fight was fought. Beterbiev was able to take what Smith was able to dish out, apply pressure on the challenger, and gradually unload with a full arsenal of punches to the body and head when he was able to get Smith against the ropes.
To Smith's credit, he withstood as much as he could and continued to try and turn the fight around in his favor. After four rounds of seeing this pattern, Smith's trainer, former two-division world champion Buddy McGirt, who for the last several decades has become one of the top trainers in the entire sport, told his fighter that he needed to use his jab more, to try to go to Beterbiev's body with his left hook, and needed to keep the combat in the center of the ring. Smith made an effort in rounds five and six to do that and did have some success, but the one constant was that whenever Beterbiev landed, his punches had more power behind them and did more damage. The attempted tactical adjustment by Smith did seem to be changing the tempo slightly.
In round seven, the roles seemed to reverse with Smith applying the pressure and backing Beterbiev up. Unfortunately for the former Super-Middleweight world champion, just as it appeared he was about to get Beterbiev cornered on the ropes, the champion caught him as he was coming forward with a right hand that landed flush on the jaw. This badly staggered Smith, who had no answer for the brutal barrage of punches that followed, which ultimately sent the challenger down to the canvas for the first time in his career. Showing the mettle of a warrior, Smith was able to get up from the knockdown, but would be sent down a second time from a follow-up barrage of punches from Beterbiev. Although Smith got up a second time, McGirt, seeing his fighter was compromised, got into the ring and stopped the fight at 2:00 of round seven.
The eigth successful defense of his crown for Beterbiev also signaled his twentieth straight knockout in twenty professional fights. With the victory, obviously, the question now becomes whether a fight brtween Beterbiev and Bivol for the Undisputed Light-Heavyweight championship of the world will happen later this year. According to Beterbiev's promoter Hall of Famer Bob Arum, contrary to what wss believed by some prior to this fight, a bout between Beterbiev and Bivol has not been finalized, but the goal would be for it to occur later this year in Saudi Arabia, which is fast becoming one of the sought after destinations for Boxing’s bigger events.
Although a fight between the two has been talked about for years, if Arum is correct and an encounter between Beterbiev and Bivol does take place in either late spring or during the summer of this year, it should be viewed as significant progress and a victory for the sport. All too often, fights like this where there is an undisputed championship involved and/or other bouts that have significant public interest can take several years to make happen and too often, when those fights do finally occur, it fails to live up to expectations and the combination of both a lengthy wait as well as a perceived lack of competitive action leaves a bad taste in the mouths of Boxing fans, who are also often asked to pay an asinine price to see those fights when they finally happen. If the politics of the sport do not in one way or another interfere, there are no other roadblocks that come up during the negotiation process, and the fight fan be made within a reasonable timeframe as Arum has suggested, it is a true win for Boxing and should be celebrated.
“And That's The Boxing Truth."
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