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Beterbiev & Smith Jr. battle tonight in New York in 175-lb unification

Image: Beterbiev & Smith Jr. battle tonight in New York in 175-lb unification

By Brian Webber: WBO 175-lb champion Joe Smith Jr. comes into tonight’s fight as the underdog in his unification fight against unbeaten IBF/WBC champion Artur Beterbiev on ESPN.

Smith (28-3, 22 KOs) is in the familiar territory of being the underdog in this fight against Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs), as earlier in his career, he’d been brought in as the B-side opponent for fights against Bernard Hopkins and Andrzej Fonfara, expecting to lose.

The Long Island, New York native Smith Jr stopped both of those fighters and made a name for himself. Recently, Smith defeated Maxim Vlasov by a 12-round unanimous decision to become the WBO light heavyweight champion last year in April.

Tonight, it’s expected to be a tougher test for Smith in going up against the two-time Olympian Beterbiev at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Smith, 32, has the youth on his side fighting the 37-year-old Beterbiev, but it still figures to be a difficult match-up for him going up against a guy with his power & experience.

“He’s a World Boxing Organization light heavyweight champion. He’s good,” said Russ Anber to Tru School Sports about Joe Smith Jr. “We don’t think of Joe Smith and get Sugar Ray Robinson in our mind, but you get a worker, you get someone that comes to fight.

“You got someone that more than makes up for his lack of ability with his sheer grit, determination, and self-belief, and he can punch,” Anber said about Joe Smith Jr.

“He’s had some outstanding wins. People forget that he [Smith Jr] was brought in to lose to Fonfara and was brought in to lose to Bernard Hopkins and he won. So I’m not counting this guy out at all.

“He’s got size, determination, a lot of heart, and he’s coming to fight. I’ve got all the respect in the world for Joe Smith.

“He’s been one of boxing’s best-kept secrets if you will,” said Anber about Beterbiev. “He’s not underrated but underexposed fighters in boxing. I think Beterbiev is one of them, considering what he does and how good he is.

“I think if you had the same guy that was an American doing what Beterbiev did, man, he’d already been up for a pound-for-pound king. I think one of the things that have to be looked upon is not only is he under the radar here in the pro scene in America, but he was under the radar as an amateur.

“He was overlooked by all the promoters in America when he was ready to turn pro, and he ended up in Montreal. He’s a Canadian citizen now, and he’s lived there for ten years. His kids were born there and go to school there.

“I think he [Beterbiev] was overlooked when people were looking at potential amateur prospects to turn pro,” said Anber.

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