By Jake Tiernan: Artur Beterbiev & Callum Smith met this week for their first face-off to begin slowly building interest for their August 19th fight on ESPN+ at the Centre Videotron in Quebec City.
The 6’3″ former WBA super middleweight champion Smith (29-1, 21 KOs) pretty much towered over the 6’0″ IBF, WBC & WBO light heavyweight champion Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs), looking like fighters that were a couple of divisions apart.
Considering how huge Smith looked standing next to the two-time Olympian Beterbiev, it’s hard to believe that he used to fight at 168.
Smith must have had to lose 20+ lbs to make weight, which would go with the label some boxing fans had of him being a weight bully when he was campaigning at super middleweight.
Now that the 33-year-old Smith is fighting at light heavyweight, this is where he belongs.
That said, it will still be a big ask for Callum to defeat Beterbiev, even though the Russian fighter is 38 and has lost a few steps. Beterbiev has superior boxing skills, toughness, and ring IQ, which could be more than enough to defeat Smith.
We saw how Smith surrendered the ship three years ago in his fight with Canelo Alvarez when he was met with resistance.
Smith retreated to the ropes after the first couple of rounds after he was nailed to the bread basket by Canelo, and he spent the last ten rounds looking like a glorified sparring partner.
What boxing fans got from that fight is that Smith can dish it out, but he sure can’t take it well and is mentally weak when dealing with someone that fights back.
“I think so. I mean, Callum’s a force,” said George Groves to Boxing News when asked if Callum Smith has a chance of beating IBF, WBC & WBO light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev on August 19th.
— STN Sports (@stnsports_) June 22, 2023
“He’s a good fighter, he’s a good puncher with power, and sometimes he’s blown hot & cold, but I always thought that was maybe weight dependent.
“When he does the weight well, he boxes well, and up at light heavyweight; he hasn’t really put a foot wrong yet. This might be the right time to get Beterbiev. You know, he’s in his 40s now.”
Beterbiev is 38, not in his 40s yet, but if you want to round it off, you can call him a 40-year-old, as Groves is doing here.
Callum Smith has only blown cold when fighting quality opposition. When facing domestic-level opposition, he’s looked like a world-beater.
Most would agree that Smith looked horrible against Canelo and John Ryder, losing to both but being given a controversial decision over John.
In Smith’s two fights at 175, he’s been matched selectively, put in with journeyman Lenin Castillo and little-known fringe contender Mathieu Bauderlique.
Smith looked great against those fighters, but they were far from being on the level of Beterbiev & Dmitry Bivol, the two lions in the 175-lb division.
Smith can beat guys like Castillo, Baunderlique, Groves, Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam & Nieky Holzken, but he’s proven to be a failure when fighting good opposition.
It’s fair to say that Callum should have lost his fight with Ryder and was given a hometown decision in Liverpool in 2019. So unless Smith has improved by leaps & bounds since then, he’ll revert to form and return to the fighter he’s always been when fighting quality opposition.
“So if he catches him early and hurts him [Beterbiev], Callum Johnson caught him, but you know, he got stopped, but so you know, he does go over. It might be the right time for him,” said Groves about Callum Smith.
Ideally, Callum should have earned his WBC mandatory spot by beating a good opponent instead of being given an easy opponent in Bauderlique because he’s not had the chance to improve since his one-sided loss to Canelo.
As the saying goes, ‘Garbage in, garbage out.‘ Smith has fought no one since his loss to Canelo, and he will get beaten again unless Beterbiev has gotten old overnight since his knockout victory against Anthony Yarde last January.