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Hearn says IBF has ordered Artur Beterbiev vs. Callum Smith


By Tim Royner: Eddie Hearn says the International Boxing Federation has ordered IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev (12-0, 12 KOs) to defend against #8 IBF Callum Johnson (17-0, 12 KOs) next.

Hearn isn’t saying whether the 32-year-old Johnson will take the fight or not with Beterbiev, but the fact that he’s even mentioning it suggests that they’re going to agree to it. Johnson is about to turn 33-years-old in August, and he might not get another shot at a world title if he doesn’t agree to take this one.

Johnson didn’t fight at all in 2017. He’s had some serious inactivity problems, which is not good for a fighter in his early thirties like Johnson. If he doesn’t take the Beterbiev fight, he could be waiting for a long, long time before he gets a shot at a belt. As stacked as the 175 lb. division is right now, Johnson can’t sit and wait for a weak champion to come available for him to beat. The champions at 175 are a talented bunch represented by Adonis Stevenson, Sergey Kovalev, Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol.

Johnson may never become a champion with a group like that holding titles. Just getting a world title shot could be as good as it gets for Johnson. He can turn the shot down, but what else is he going to do if he does that? Unbeaten Anthony Yarde isn’t interested in fighting Johnson right now. You can bet that when Yarde does eventually show interest in fighting Johnson, it’ll be after he’s gotten good and old.

Johnson recently emerged from an 18 month layoff to defeat Frank Buglioni by a 1st round knockout on March 24 on the undercard of the Dillian Whyte vs. Lucas ‘Big Daddy’ Browne at the O2 Arena. Johnson doesn’t have a lot of rounds in the bank in the last year and a half, but then again neither does the 33-year-old Beterbiev, who has been dealing with promotional issues.

Beterbiev fought just once in 2017 in stopping Enrico Koelling in the 12th round to win the vacant IBF light heavyweight title last November.

Beterbiev didn’t look impressive. He had been out of the ring for 11 months. In 2016, Beterbiev fought twice, but he only went 5 rounds in knocking out Isidro Prieto in the 1st round and Ezquiel Maderna in 5 rounds.

If Johnson turns the Beterbiev fight down, then what else is he going to do? He already beat Buglioni. Yarde doesn’t want to fight him. There aren’t any domestic level guys to fight unless Hearn can set him up with former IBO super middleweight champion Chris Eubank Jr. It’s very unlikely Eubank Jr. will agree to fight Johnson.

Johnson likes to jump on his opponents right off the bat to try and score quick knockouts. I’m not sure that’ll work against Beterbiev, who is too experienced to get knocked out quickly. If Johnson tries that tactic against Beterbiev, it could be him that gets stopped right away. Of Johnson’s 17 career wins, he’s knocked out six of his opponents in the 1st round. Johnson also has three knockouts in the 2nd round.

Johnson would be taking a huge step up in class in taking on Beterbiev though. The best fighter Johnson has faced is Frank Buglioni, who is more of a domestic level fighter than a true contender.

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