By Jim Calfa: IBF/WBC light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev will chop up WBO champion Joe Smith Jr on the inside on Saturday night if he can work his way to the interior, says Tim Bradley of ESPN.
Bradley says Smith (28-2, 22 KOs) needs to keep the action on the outside where he can utilize his long reach to control the action because Beterbiev is far too dangerous to be mixing it up with at the close range.
Top Rank promotes Saturday’s 175-lb unification fight between Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs) and Smith Jr at Madison Square Garden in New York. The fight event will be shown on ESPN and ESPN+ at 10:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. PT.
In the co-feature, featherweight contender Robeisy Ramirez takes on Abraham Nova in a 10-round bout, possibly stealing the show from the main event clash between Beterbiev and Smith Jr.
“Great fight; I’m up here pumping up Joe Smith Jr because I feel like he’s being disrespected by people saying he doesn’t have a chance when the dude can punch,” said Tim Bradley to Fighthype on Joe Smith Jr. being overlooked.
“The dude is a tree-cutter, bro. The dude has got heavy hands,” Bradley said about Smith Jr. “He’s got some knockouts too, and we’ve seen Beterbiev get caught. We’ve seen him get caught on the way in with heavy shots and go down, so I think Joe Smith has got a shot.
“He’s longer and has four inches on him [Beterbiev]. He can keep that fight on the outside, use that right hand and use his jab and he can box a little bit too. Man, come on. You can use small little angles, and you don’t have to have the best feet in the world.
“You can use little angles and made Beterbiev pickup his feet a little bit and change the angles on him, and he’s trying to rush in there and lunge in there. You can catch him on the way in with one of those hooks.
“The difference may be the pedigree of Beterbiev, that amateur pedigree. You can’t buy that kind of experience. He knows how to slip and slide, get his way to the inside, and use his style against his opponents.
“He has the quicker feet too. He can close the gap quickly. Joe Smith has the longer arms, yes, he can in-fight a bit, but the better in-fighter is Beterbiev.
“So, he knows how to work inside the pocket,” Bradley said about Beterbiev. “He’s clever and sneaky in there, setting up shots. Beterbiev might get you to move that guard to the side and rip you up here. He might come over the top with these short joints.
“But the inside at mid-range, he’s violent, bro,” Bradley said about Beterbiev. “If it ends close, he’ll chop you up. But outside, he tends to be a bit lost.”