Artur Beterbiev punishes Callum Smith during their WBC/IBF/ WBO light heavyweight title bout at Videotron Centre in Quebec City, Canada. (Photo by Mathieu Belanger/Getty Images)
Heading into their light heavyweight showdown on Saturday there were questions about whether Artur Beterbiev had seen better days and would fall on his sword against Callum Smith.
The IBF, WBC and WBO titleholder will be 39 in a few days and, along with an extensive amateur career, he’s had some tough fights as a professional, notably a high impact match up with another Brit, Anthony Yarde last January in London. Beterbiev also had a bone infection in his jaw, which moved the initial meeting with Smith back five months.
Well, rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated. The Russia-born Montreal resident posted one of if not the best performance of his pro career, exhibiting a clinical beatdown on his opponent.
Early on, he looked to make a statement by jumping on Smith and forcing him to the ropes where the Brit covered up. It appeared as though a message was sent. ‘You are in my hometown, my weight class, and I am the king here.’ Later when asked about this, he playfully said, “I’m not strong, I don’t want to show anyone.”
Beterbiev was very measured and calculating. It was enthralling watching his kind of violence live. Smith is an extremely good fighter, a former Ring/WBA super middleweight champ. And while he didn’t look good taking Canelo Alvarez the distance in their December 2020 bout, he’d always shown a good chin. From memory I don’t recall Smith being visibly hurt or dropped during his career. The 33-year-old proud Scouser is tough and determined. He had a decent second round, while Beterbiev downloaded information and continued to stalk and pressure while still landing several meaty shots of his own. His shots are heavy but look effortless, his punches flow and leave a price on those he hits.
From the third round on, Beterbiev cranked things up and although he didn’t go full throttle, you got the impression that while Smith remained live, he was being broken down. The defending titlist had Smith hurt and covering up on the ropes during one particular savage exchange in the fourth. He felt Smith still had something, saying at the post-fight press conference, “OK, I come back later.”
And come he did. Smith began to get visibly marked up, he couldn’t – few could – hold off the stronger man, who comes in waves and goes to the body and then up top with such accuracy.
I was in awe ringside. It was truly a sight to behold how dominant Beterbiev was. He remained calm and then in Round 7, it looked like a shark had smelt blood in the water. It was time to close the show, put his prey out of his misery if you will. Beterbiev dropped the challenger with a volley of punches, while Smith gamely made it to his feet, Beterbiev was in no mood to let the massacre continue and dropped Smith again while the challenger was looking to make it to his feet. While he was being counted by referee Michael Griffin, his trainer, hall-for-famer Buddy McGirt, had seen enough and wisely threw in the towel.
HE DOES IT AGAIN.
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) January 14, 2024
The 10,031 in attendance at the Videotron Centre greeted the end of the fight with loud cheers. They had witnessed a modern great dominate an extremely good fighter with considerable ease. He was creeping death. This was high end savagery at it’s best and will likely see him re-enter The Ring’s Mythical pound-for-pound ratings.
To quote Ricky Hatton, who once said of Gennadiy Golovkin, “The guy’s an animal, if you found him in bed with ya missus…you’d tuck him in!”
At the time of the stoppage Beterbiev was up 58-56 on two scorecards, while the third had him up 59-55.
According to CompuBox, Beterbiev outlanded Smith in every round including jabs, from which he set everything else up. He landed 172 of 471 at a connect rate of 41.4 percent, never dipping below a 30 percent connect rate in any round. Meanwhile Smith landed 59 of 366, which equated to 16.1 percent and never got above 22.7 percent connect in any round.
TWENTY HAVE TRIED.
TWENTY HAVE FAILED.
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) January 14, 2024
Beterbiev (20-0, 20 knockouts) is the only world champion to sport a 100% KO ratio in boxing. Some who don’t know him labelled him without personality. I heard the whispers the past week. However, the truth is far from that. Around a fight, he goes into himself. He is focused and lets his hands do the talking inside the ring. Afterwards or in-between fights he’s got an engaging personality. He’s playful and has a witty way about him. He had the media laughing several times at the post-fight press conference, where he clearly felt he could relax having just fought and won.
“It’s because of luck,” he told ESPN moments after the fight before giving credit to those closest to him. “It’s my coach. My team works hard with me, too. Maybe that’s why, too. But I think it’s because of luck.
“We had a couple strategies. We always have more than one. We need to be prepared for several strategies. He gave me a good fight. He stayed strong. Thanks to him. Today, luck is on my side.”
As the saying goes, ‘it’s better to be lucky than good.’ He previously joked that his main motivation was to be a good boxer. Beterbiev was asked if he feels like a good boxer at the post-fight press conference to which he quipped, “I feel, I’m on the road, I’m not there yet.”
Beterbiev, who is a father of five and rarely seen outside the gym, keeps himself to himself and is deeply religious. What he dishes out inside the ring is unholy. He doesn’t crave the attention: “In boxing gym, someone know me, that’s enough for me.
“Being honest, my kids don’t know what I do (for a living), they don’t.”
Thankfully, Smith was OK and in good spirits when I saw him later at the hotel. His face looked like he’d been hit by a sledgehammer.
With this perceived the Smith mandatory challenge out of the way there is only one fight to make at 175 pounds, a fight for all the belts plus the vacant Ring Magazine championship: Beterbiev vs. Dmitry Bivol.
While Beterbiev had remained professional and wasn’t keen to speak about it, again jokingly saying to me when I spoke to him the week before fight week, “Yes, it’s an idea, that’s what I’d like to do but don’t tell anyone,” he said.
Now he’s more than happy to talk about the proposition.
“I think it’s gonna happen,” he said.
— TURKI ALALSHIKH (@Turki_alalshikh) January 14, 2024
However, first Beterbiev will observe Ramadan and then his team said it will give him three months to train, with a working idea that the fight could take place in the summer.
Fingers crossed things work out because that would give both fighters the opportunity to further stamp their greatness on the sport. The likes of Beterbiev doesn’t come along too often, enjoy him while you can.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on
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