By: Sean Crose
Former titlist Callum Smith, 29-1, stepped into the ring in Quebec on Saturday night to take on the 19-0 WBC, IBF, and WBO light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev in an ESPN broadcast main event scheduled for 12. Beterbiev started whacking at his man right off the bat in the opening round, landing to the body and throwing punches with bad intentions. Smith, however, was able to land himself by round’s end. Beterbiev continued to apply pressure in the second. Still, Smith was able to move and land to some degree. Beterbiev was clearly the stronger of the two fighters, but Smith wasn’t being blown out.
Beterbiev was patient in the third, but remained able to land his power shots. In the fourth it was clear that, although Smith was fast and fluid, Beterbiev was able to bang away at the gutsy challenger, if not at will, then with dangerous frequency. The truth was that he was beating his man up. The fifth saw more of the same. Suffice to say, the wear and tear of battle was now evident on Smith’s face. Yet there was no doubt Smith was game, for he was still fighting to win in the sixth, no doubt hoping his speed advantage would eventually turn the course of the fight.
In the end, however, Smith was clearly in over his head. A brutal combination put Smith to the mat in the seventh. He got up, but a second flurry put the game challenger back on the mat for the second time. Legendary trainer Buddy McGirt then stepped in and saved his fighter from further abuse by ending the fight on Smith’s behalf. It was an almost frightening performance from Beterbiev, who has yet to go the distance as a professional fighter. “I think it’s because of luck,” he said humbly afterward. Interviewer Bernard Osuna politely and rightly disagreed with the undefeated champion.
“I need a fourth belt,” Beterbiev said when asked if he’d like to go for the WBA light heavyweight title, which would make him the undisputed champion of the division, should he win it. That belt is held by Canelo Alvarez conqueror Dmitry Bivol, meaning the fight for undisputed, should it happen, would be very big news indeed. And, sure enough, Beterbiev’s promoter, Bob Arum, made it clear in the post fight interview that he feels the match can be made and can go down in Saudi Arabia. Bivol is unquestionably some kind of fighter, disciplined and extremely skilled. The prospect of he and Beterbiev throwing down in the near future is an enticing one indeed.
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