By: Hans Themistode
From the moment Joe Smith Jr. wrapped light-heavyweight gold around his waist in 2021, the Long Island native was anxious to face off against the best that the 175-pound division had to offer.
Although initially, Smith Jr. had been linked to pound-for-pound star Canelo Alvarez, he quickly rebuffed those original rumors. Instead, Smith Jr. had set his sights on facing Artur Beterbiev. Following several months of back and forth negations, the hard-hitting titleholder has officially landed the one bout he’s craved more than any other.
On June 18th, in Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater, Smith Jr. and Beterbiev will collide in the main event. Ticket sales for the event are set to go on sale on May 12th.
Earlier this year, Smith Jr. made the first successful defense of his newly won world title, pounding longtime journeymen Steve Geffrard, resulting in a ninth-round stoppage victory. With three world titles set to be on the line during his showdown against Beterbiev, Smith Jr. has even bigger aspirations. If the hard-hitting Long Islander were to emerge with his hand raised in victory on the 18th of June, he’ll look to become an undisputed world titlist.
But, regardless of Smith Jr.’s ambitions, Beterbiev will look to add another world title to his ever-growing collection. Following an idle 2020, the Russian native got back to his winning ways in 2021.
First up on his pugilistic calendar, was a showdown against Adam Deines. While the fringe contender proved to be durable, Beterbiev eventually found his stride, scoring the knockout victory in the 10th round. Next up for the heavy-handed unified champion, was a date with former Olympian Marcus Browne.
In an effort to keep away from Beterbiev’s knockout power, Browne boxed cautiously on the outside. To further complicate matters for the Russian, blood poured from a deep gash that opened near the top of his right eyebrow. Still, despite the severity of his wound, Beterbiev continued to push forward.
As Browne appeared to lose steam during the second half, Beterbiev dropped his man in the seventh and ninth, before ultimately scoring the stoppage win moments later. Presently, Beterbiev is pleased with his recent performances. However, he’s well aware of the dangers Smith Jr. presents in the ring.
Ultimately, while Beterbiev will prepare himself for what’s expected to be a grueling affair, he refuses to allow Smith Jr., or anyone else for that matter, come between himself, and his undisputed title dreams.
“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.”
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