Artur Beterbiev vs Joe Smith Jr in the works for Feb.22/23
By Jeff Aranow: IBF light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev (13-0, 13 KOs) will be defending his title against #14 IBF fringe contender Joe Smith Jr. (24-2, 20 KOs) on a Matchroom Boxing USA DAZN card on either February 22 or February 23, according to ESPN. This will be Beterbiev’s second defense of his International Boxing Federation 175 lb title he won last year in beating Enrico Koelling by a 12th round knockout in November 2017.
This will be a good test for Beterbiev, who is looking for unification fights against the other champions at 175. Smith Jr. is a big puncher, and this should make for an intriguing fight from start to finish. Beterbiev will likely choose to box more rather than coming flying out of the blocks looking to slug like he did in his last fight.
Beterbiev, 33, recently successfully defended his IBF title for the first time in stopping Callum Johnson (17-1, 12 KOs) by an action-packed 4th round knockout on Octobe 6 on DAZN at the Wintrust Arena, in Chicago, Illinois. Although the fight ended with an early knockout, it was competitive throughout with both fighters tasting the canvas. Beterbiev was more hurt than Johnson in the fight, but the British fighter failed to capitalize on the situation.
It’s good to see Beterbiev being kept busy with his boxing career, as he’s fought sporadically since 2017 due to injury and promotional problems. Beterbiev fought just once in 2017 and 2018. Ideally, Beterbiev should be fighting three times per year for him to be seen a lot by the U.S boxing fans. At this point, fighting twice a year would be a welcome change for Beterbiev from the one fight per year pace he’s been doing in the last two years of his career. If Beterbiev is going to be involved in unification fights, he needs to do it now while he’s still relatively young. WBC champion Adonis ‘Superman’ Stevens was recently dethroned by Oleksander Gvozdyk (16-0, 13 KOs) in a tragic fight on December 1. It would be great to see Beterbiev and Gvozdyk face each other in a unification fight in the near future if the fight can get negotiated.
Smith looked good in his last match in defeating Melvin Russell in the 1st round last June. That was a good bounce back fight for Smith Jr. after he’d been beaten by Cuban Sullivan Barrera by a 10 round unanimous decision last year in July 2017. After scoring an early knockdown of Barrera in the 1st round, Smith suffered a jaw injury, and was ineffective the test of the way in losing a decision. Smith had two big wins in 2016 in stopping Andrzej Fonfara and Bernard Hopkins. Those were by far the best wins of Smith’s career. Unfortunately, he’s still been unable to take advantage of those victories by challenging for a world title. The Beterbiev fight will be the first time Smith will have fought in a title fight.