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Artur Beterbiev defends against Joe Smith Jr. on Dec.15 at MSG, NY

Artur Beterbiev Canelo Alvarez

By Jim Dower: It’s now a done deal that IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev will be defending his title against Joe Smith Jr. on December 15 on DAZN at Madison Square Garden in New York, according to Dan Rafael. This is a great addition to the December 15 DAZN card.

Beterbiev-Smith will be taking place on the undercard of Saul Canelo Alvarez vs. Rocky Fielding. Canelo’s decision to face WBA ‘regular’ super middleweight champion Fielding (27-1, 15 KOs) is a questionable one, because there aren’t too many boxing excited about this match. However, by adding Beterbiev to the card against knockout artist Smith Jr. will help make up for Canelo’s choice of Fielding for the main event.

Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn wants to keep Beterbiev as busy as possible on his DAZN card with the objective to turn him into a star in a hurry. For Hearn to accomplish that goal, he needs to be able to setup fights between Beterbiev and the other top fighters in the 175 lb weight class like Adonis Stevenson, Dmitry Bivol, Eleider Alvarez, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Sergy Kovalev and Badou Jack. Considering that many of those fighters aren’t connected with DAZN, it could prove to be impossible for Beterbiev to get a shot against any of them. That won’t prevent Beterbiev from becoming a big name like we’ve seen with Gennady Golovkin at middleweight. Golovkin became a big star in the U.S without fighting a big star. It was only after GGG became a huge attraction that he was finally matched against his first major star in Canelo Alvarez last year.

Beterbiev-Smith Jr. is the ideal fight for the December 15 card on DAZN due to the reputation of these two sluggers. Matchroom Boxing promter Eddie Hearn co-promotes both Beterbiev and Smith Jr., so it an easy decision to put those two on the Canelo vs. Fielding card. Hearn also promotes Fielding, and he’s interested in seeing up a future fight between Canelo and the unbeaten WBA Super World super middleweight champion Callum Smith. That’s a fight that could shake up the boxing world if Canelo agrees to take on the 28-year-old Smith. Two years ago, Canelo defeated Smith’s brother Liam Smith in September 2016 to win the WBO 154 lb title in Arlington, Texas.

Without question, Beterbiev vs. Smith Jr. is a good enough fight in it’s own to be the headliner. This is a bout that promises to be an explosive affair with one them hitting the deck once or twice. Beterbiev’s last fight against KO artist Callum Johnson (17-1, 12 KOs) was like watching two rock ’em sock ’em robots go at it for four rounds. Both fighters hit the deck before Beterbiev knocked Johnson down for the count last month on October 6 at Wintrust Arena, Chicago, Illinois.

Beterbiev wants to make sure he doesn’t get clipped by Joe Smith Jr. on December 15 like he was in his last fight against Callum Johnson. Never the less, Beterbiev is a natural slugger, so you can expect him to be mixing it up with Smith even while playing it safe. Beterbiev doesn’t know how not to put himself in harm’s way in his fights, which is what makes him so exciting to watch.

Canelo, 28, will be looking to win his third division world title against secondary WBA super middleweight champion Fielding. This will be the first fight of Canelo’s 11-fight, 5-year, $365 million deal with DAZN. Canelo’s promoters at Golden Boy Promotions have selected a fighter that amounts to be a showcase fight for the Mexican star. They likely chose the 31-year-old Fielding because of the punishment that Canelo took in beating WBA/WBC middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin by a 12 round majority decision last September in Las Vegas, Nevada. Most boxing fans thought Canelo lost that fight. Canelo’s win over GGG came at a cost due the many heavy blows that he absorbed along the way in the fight.Golden Boy could have worked to setup a fight between Canelo and WBA Super World super middleweight champion Callum Smith, but they decided to go with the secondary belt holder Fielding.

According to Rafael, Joe Smith, 29, turned down a November 24 fight against WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol on HBO in order to take on the 33-year-old Beterbiev. Smith likely preferred the brawling style that Beterbiev uses rather than the technical style of Bivol. The vulnerability that Beterbiev displayed against Callum Johnson likely had something to do with Smith picking him to fight on December 15. Further, there will be a lot of boxing fans that will be tuning in to watch the Canelo vs. Fielding fight on DAZN on December 15, and that’ll mean a lot of exposure for Smith in his fight against the 2-time Russian Olympian Beterbiev. Smith will make more money fighting Beterbiev than he would against Bivol, according to Rafael. It’s a fight that Smith can win if he’s able to land one of his big power shots to hurt Beterbiev the way that Johnson did in the 2nd round in their fight last month on October 6. Johnson blew his opportunity to knockout Beterbiev by backing off after he had him hurt and on the deck in the 2nd round. Smith is a different type of fighter than Johnson. When he has an opponent hurt, he goes after them to finish them off.

Beterbiev will have an advantage of Smith on December 15 in that he’s now active and coming off of a nice tune-up match against Johnson last October. Smith last fought in June in blowing out Melvin Russell by a 1st round knockout in a slaughter that ended quickly. Smith couldn’t have gotten too much from such a quick blowout fight. Last year, Smith was beaten by Sullivan Barrera by a 10 round unanimous decision in July 2017.

Beterbiev vs. Smith is the second official fight for the Canelo vs. Fielding undercard. The other finalized fight for the card is middleweight David Lemieux vs. Tureano Johnson. That’s a match that promises to be a real barn-burner, as both guys don’t have a reverse gear. Other fighters on the Canelo vs. Fielding card are as follows:

– Ryan Garcia

– Tevin Farmer

– Katie Taylor

– Yves Ulysse Jr.


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