By Brian Webber: Promoter Eddie Hearn believes IBF/WBC light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev will emerge as the victor in his three-belt unification fight against WBO champion Joe Smith Jr. in June 18th.
The Top Rank promoted Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) and Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) will headline live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN+ at Madison Square Garden in New York.
It’s a logical pick on Hearn’s part to pick the two-time Olympian Beterbiev to defeat Smith. He looked impressive with his recent stoppage win over his WBC mandatory Marcus Browne last December.
For his part, Smith struggled to defeat Maxim Vlasov by a 12-round majority decision last year, and his only other fight since was against little-known Steve Geffrard.
Hearn would like his fighter Joshua Buatsi to challenge the winner of the Beterbiev vs. Smith fight for the three belts. Buatsi (16-0, 13 KOs) is ranked #2 IBF, #2 WBA, #4 WBC & #6 WBO.
If Canelo Alvarez can avenge his loss to WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol this year, he would be an option to battle the Beterbiev vs. Smith winner at some point.
Hearn picks Beterbiev over Smith
“At the moment, you have a very clustered division because you’ve got two champions. Well, you’ve got three champions about to become two, and the shots aren’t really there,” said Eddie Hearn to the DAZN Boxing Show about the 175-lb champions Artur Beterbiev, Joe Smith Jr., and Dmitry Bivol.
“If one comes up, you’ve got to grab it. It’s a unified championship, so someone is going to win,” Hearn said of the June 18th light heavyweight unification fight between IBF/WBC champion Beterbiev & WBO belt holder Smith Jr.
“There’s only going to be one champion after that fight for those belts [IBF, WBC & WBO], and [WBA champion] Dmitry Bivol. But I do believe Beterbiev wins that fight,” predicts Hearn.
Hearn is in a difficult situation trying to pick the right champion to match his fighter Buatsi against this year.
What we saw of Buatsi last weekend in his win over Craig Richards is a fighter that needs more experience, but he’s not going to get it before being thrown in with Bivol or the Beterbiev-Smith winner.
Arum rules out undisputed clash
“This is going to be a great, great fight between two hard-punching light heavyweights,” said Top Rank promoter Bob Arum to Fighthype about the Beterbiev vs. Smith Jr three-belt 175-lb unification clash next month on June 18th.
“Bivol fights on the DAZN platform, and we’re not interested in having our fighters fight on DAZN. They want to fight on ESPN, where they have the biggest audience.”
What this means is the fans aren’t going to get a chance to see an undisputed clash take place at light heavyweight.
Of course, what might change Arum’s stance is if Canelo can get his hands on the WBA 175-lb belt held by Dmitry Bivol. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that Canelo will defeat Bivol in their rematch this year or in 2023.