Fighter of the Week: Artur Beterbiev

Artur Beterbiev vs Joe Smith Jr was a can’t-miss fight, a can’t miss toe to slugfest that promised not to go the distance and was going to be absolute fireworks, toe to toe heavy artillery exchanged in the center of the ring as long as it lasted and it wasn’t going to go the distance. Well, we got fireworks, it was just entirely one way. Artur Beterbiev of Khasavyurt, Russia dropped Joe Smith Jr of Long Island, New York, three times on his way to picking up a spectacular second-round knockout as well as Smith’s WBO light heavyweight crown, retaining his WBC and IBF straps, solidifying his position on pound for pound lists and takes home our Fighter of the Week award. 

Smith Jr was executing the game plan from the opening bell as well as he could. Firing off the jab trying to outwork his aging opponent take the early rounds and begin to break him down with body shots and setting up right hands. Except, none of it worked. A barrage of heavy right hands found landed on the button for the Russian in the opening stanza. One, in particular, sent the New Yorker onto one knee just before the bell. The unified WBC/IBF champ kept the momentum going in the second and another barrage of power shots put the Long Islander back to the canvas just 40 seconds into the fourth round. Beterbiev stayed on the attack and stepped on the gas unleashing a barrage that was capped off with the left hook that put Smith down for the third time. Smith answered the count and battled on. Setting him up perfectly with the jab Beterbiev found his opening and scored with a vicious uppercut that buckled Smith Jr once again and brought in referee Harvey Dock to waive off the bout at 43 seconds left in the second round. Spoiling the New Yorkers’ homecoming and giving Beterbiev his 18th knockout victory in 18 fights.

There are plenty of attractive fights for Beterbiev. However, there’s only one that matters: the battle for undisputed Light heavyweight supremacy with fellow pound-for-pounder Dmitry Bivol also of Russia. With Canelo going back down to 168 to do battle with GGG for the third time each man has an opening. The timing makes perfect sense. Bivol may have to figure out how to pay, or mandatory challenge Gilberto Ramirez to step aside or petition the WBA to put the mandatory fight off for the unification. However, both guys seem to want the fight and have nothing that should stand in the way. At 37, who knows how much longer Beterbiev will want to fight on, and the likelihood of Canelo coming back up to 175 to fight Beterbiev seems incredibly unlikely. So the last legacy fight for Beterbiev is Bivol it’s the only one that propels him into hall of fame status. For Beterbiev it should be Bivol or bust

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