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Artur Beterbiev vs. Joe Smith Jr. on December 15 or 22

Artur Beterbiev

By Mike Smith: Artur Beterbiev (13-0, 13 KOs) will be defending his IBF light heavyweight title against Joe Smith Jr. (24-2, 20 KOs) on December 15 or December 22 at Madison Square Garden in New York or Atlantic City, New Jersey, according to RDS.ca.

Beterbiev-Smith Jr. could take place on the undercard of Saul Canelo Alvarez vs. Rocky Fielding on December 15 at Madison Square Garden in New York. If that’s the case, it would mean that Matchroom Boxing USA promoter Eddie Hearn was successful at at signing Alvarez. Beterbiev vs. Smith would be the co-feature bout on the card.

David Lemieux could be fighting on the undercard of Canelo Alvarez vs. Rocky Fielding as well. Lemieux is someone that has a chance to face Canelo in the near future. It was thought that Lemieux would be the one facing Canelo on December 15. Golden Boy Promotions chose instead to move Canelo up to 168 to challenge Fielding for his WBA ‘regular’ super middleweight title.

This is one of those fights where whoever lands first will win. Beterbiev and Smith Jr. are guys that can turn out the lights with a single punch.

Beterbiev, 33 is coming off of a 4th round knockout win over #7 IBF Callum Johnson (17-1, 12 KOs) on October 6 in Matchroom Boxing USA card on DAZN at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois. After visiting the canvas in the 2nd round, Beterbiev came back to stop Johnson in the 4th. Johnson was down twice in the fight in round one and four.

Beterbiev getting knocked down in the 2nd round was a surprise to a lot of boxing fans beause he was so badly hurt from the shot. Beterbiev was smart when he got back to his feet. He boxed Johnson and stayed out of the way of most of his power shots the rest of the way.

“It is almost certain that Artur will fight against Joe Smith. What is less certain is when,” Beterbiev’s promoter Yvon Michel said to rds.ca ”But one thing is certain, this next fight will take place in 2018.”

Smith Jr. has the punching power to beat Beterbiev if he can stand up to his power. Smith Jr. is a similar type of fighter to Beterbiev’s last opponent Callum Johnson. Smith Jr. is going to need to be able to box a little for him to have a chance of beating Beterbiev. He’s not going to beat the two-time Russian Olympian by going straight at him looking to punch it out. Beterbiev likely learned his lesson not to go to war with big punchers from his fight with Johnson. Smith Jr. is too dangerous for Beterbiev to slug with.

The 29-year-old Smith Jr. lost a 10 round unanimous decision last year to Sullivan Barrera in July 2017. Smith Jr. bounced back with a 1st round knockout win over Melvin Russell last June. Smith Jr. arguably doesn’t deserve a title shot given that that he’s won only one fight since his loss to Barrera, but he has a recognizable name with the boxing public. That makes Smith Jr. a good option for Beterbiev. Smith Jr. has past wins over Bernard Hopkins, Andrzej Fonfara, Will Rosinsky and Otis Griffin.

Hearn is trying to sign WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol. If Hearn can sign Bivol, he would likely look to match the two fighters against each other in a unification fight.

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